The Southern Center For Communication, Health & Poverty
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The Southern Center for Communication, Health, and Poverty

The Southern Center for Communication, Health and Poverty develops, fosters, and translates health communication research to enhance the health and well-being of economically disadvantaged people of the South.

The Southern Center for Communication, Health, and Poverty

The overall objective of the Southern Center for Communication, Health, and Poverty (SCCHP) is to reduce health disparities by investigating how the poor and near poor living in the South respond to health risks and by developing and testing interventions to enhance their health protection behaviors. Specifically, SCCHP studies the way that lower-income persons in the South, who are disproportionately African American, attend to health risks, process messages about risks, and decide whether to engage in behaviors that will help protect them from these risks. This focus is unique for two reasons.

First, SCCHP takes a unique direction in that most of the previous research about health risks has focused on only one specific risk such as HIV, West Nile Virus, or terrorism rather than focusing on a population and trying to understand their patterns of risk related practices. This population-based focus enables us to examine a constellation of health risks and thereby to discern patterns of response to risks. If these patterns exist, they may suggest new approaches to marketing health protection behaviors. This objective is quite consistent with CDC’s goal of becoming more consumer-centric and ensuring that all people, especially those at higher risk due to health disparities, will achieve their optimal lifespan with the best possible quality of health in every stage.

Second, SCCHP’s singular approach is important because most of the previous research looking at health disparities has not adequately examined the complex relationship between income and ethnicity. Our research is designed to look at these two critical factors in depth to better understand the ways in which income and ethnicity influence health risk decision-making. These findings will contribute to better segmentation strategies in future interventions.

The chief way in which SCCHP is engaging its objective during the grant period is through two major research studies and one pilot that explore methods to promote healthy behaviors among low income persons. The two major studies approach two different health issues—smoking behavior and genetic factors. The pilot study takes a unique approach and focuses on the low-income audience but examines multiple health risks, looking for patterns of response to risk that may be present. The studies explore three different contributing factors—message processing, message contents, and active involvement in shaping shared activities. The studies make actionable the Center’s dedication to engaging a broad range of the complex issues involved in health disparities from the communication/marketing perspective. SCCHP is supporting these research studies and building a foundation for continued research to meet its two major goals by:

  • Maintaining four core components (research methods and statistics; public health workforce development; communication, marketing, and dissemination; and administrative) that will provide essential support to these and future research studies.
  • Providing incentives through funding for pilot studies for other marketing and communication scientists to pursue these overall objectives.
  • Developing the public health workforce by providing limited direct training and actively disseminating the research findings from the Center to improve the actual practice of health marketing/health communication. Because journalists are such critical messengers in reaching the public with health information, one function of this core will be to conduct workshops with journalists to improve the coverage of health issues in the media to make the information more accessible and useable for low income individuals.
  • Establishing relationships and processes among a group of interdisciplinary experts and opportunities for them to engage in common problem solving with a critical population, low income southerners.

Background and Components of the Center

SCCHP represents a culmination of a process that has been underway at the University of Georgia for over five years. A network of health researchers has coalesced from an inter-disciplinary group of scholars working on health communication and marketing issues. The natural growth of this network has been complimented by the launch of the School of Public Health and its Master’s of Public Health Program. SCCHP has had two primary inter-disciplinary locales—the Biomedical Health Sciences Institute and the Institute for Behavioral Research. Researchers in the network were working to establish a Center at the University prior to the CDC grant call, as indicated by their ability to gain allocation of space in the Coverdell Center for Biomedical Research, a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary facility. The CDC Center grant has helped crystallize this network into a well-organized and directed Center. Moreover, the grant expands the Center from an institution focused on supporting the research projects of the researchers involved to a broad platform for operations linking public health organizations to the University’s research, linking research to training of the public health workforce, and linking Morehouse and the University of Georgia. The grant will stimulate research on the Center’s important goal: reducing health disparities.

This Center consists of three universities, a communication and marketing private sector organization, and a public health department. These collaborators will conduct two projects, four core components, and a pilot study. Projects 1 and 2 are both three year projects. The third project is a one-year pilot that will begin six months into the award after the center infrastructure has been developed. A new one-year pilot will be selected for Year 3 of the project. Thus, in all three years, the Center will have at least three research projects active concurrently. The four cores will be active during the entire three year period.

See graphic below depicting the Center’s organizational structure.

SCCHP Organizational Structure

Organizational Chart SCCHP



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