The University of Georgia Center for Health and Risk Communications (CHRC)
Communication is the most cost-effective and humane means for ensuring public and individual health and safety. With effective communication we can prevent a large number of illnesses and injuries instead of having to treat them. Health protection messages may be delivered through traditional mass media, interactive new technologies, or through interpersonal contact. In addition, clear communication between health service providers and individuals seeking health information, treatment, or support can improve the quality of care for those people who do need medical attention.
Researchers at the CHRC often investigate how target audiences make health-related decisions – how preteens decide whether to experiment with cigarettes. They then focus on how to create messages that will get the audience’s attention and produce results. For example, since teenagers tend to react according to feelings over logic, a rational message about the health risks of smoking may have less of an impact than one that produces an emotional reaction.
The CHRC has a particular commitment to research on reducing health disparities by adapting communication to diverse populations. Housed within the CHRC is the Southern Center for Communication, Health and Poverty – a “center of excellence” funded by the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One related set of studies examines how to overcome the sense of negative fatalism about disease that some people can experience when they learn that their genetic make-up predisposes them to some adverse health outcome.
Currently, CHRC researchers are working to improve communication practices that address a broad catalogue of health and risk conditions ranging from breast cancer and diabetes to multiple sclerosis and sickle cell anemia to drinking water contamination arising from terrorist attack. Interdisciplinary connections among Center for Health and Risk Communications researchers and with researchers in other biomedical and health sciences are essential to this enterprise.