Career in Health Communication
Today health communication has become one of the fastest growing areas in the field of communication. Health Communication generally involves putting public communication strategies to work in order to educate the public and those in the healthcare industry about important health information.
This includes improving the relationship between Patients and Healthcare Providers, Planning, Designing and Executing Public Health Campaigns and Promoting Health living through the media.
The mission of health communication is not only to inform the public about health issues but also to help them to identify places to get assistance.
We have all seen public service announcements on television or on hoardings, in newspapers and even heard them on the radio.
These are all part of health communication campaigns but the real opportunities are much greater than this.
Scope and Areas of Work :
Communication is a critical part of Public Health. Without it, would we know that smoking causes cancer or that HIV / AIDS can be spread through intravenous needle use?
Experts in Public Health Communication know that effective communication has the power to change people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.
Public Health Communication experts use effective messages to reach and educate the masses on important health issues. Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, Television, Films, Internet, Mobile Communication, Theatre, Traditional Forms of Entertainment and Interpersonal Communication Efforts are the channels generally used to reach the public.
Now a days, Health Communication experts are using Mobile Messages, Blogs, Online Social Networking sites like Orkut, Facebook, Youtube, Second Life and Twitter to reach the audiences.
Students of Health Communication generally learn about the role of communication and media in shaping the public understanding of health issues. They learn health advocacy, the crafting of messages about health, and strategies for the promotion of healthcare services.
Communication is a key tool that health communicators use in dealing with patients and clients while informing them about illness, prevention methods, diagnosis, treatment, facilities and care.
It is also the job of health communicator to develop and maintain trust between health care provider and client, their families and others concerned. In health sector communication is also used to educate and train people to adopt health behaviours such as nutrition, sexual health and family planning.
The Scope of Health Communication is tremendous. Health Communication is widely used as a tool to increase the intended audience’s knowledge and awareness of a health issue, problem or solution.
As a health communicator you have immense scope to influence perceptions, beliefs and attitudes of masses that may change social norms and can bring prompt action.
A well planned health communication effort involves people and empowers people to take trational and informed decisions through appropriate knowledge, inculcates necessary skills and optimism, facilitates and stimulates, pertinent action through changed mindset, and modified behaviour.
In a country like India, where major part of the population still lives in villages, and constraints like illiteracy and poverty still pose as a barrier to development, we need a number of communication channels to reach these masses that should be aware and be able to promote health at individual and societal level.
Nature of the Job :
Having a Degree or Diploma in Health Communication, one can work as a Health Educator, School Health Care Administrator, Medical Grants Writer, Health Communicator, Clinic Public Relations Executive, Health Communication Analyst, Research Analyst, Medical Training Supervisor, Communication Manager for Health Development Agencies, Hospice Manager, Health Care Counselor and also as a health advocate.
Pharmaceutical Companies, Hospitals, Insurance Companies and non – profit organizations always need people educated in effective health communication.
One can also work as an independent researcher and scholar who contributes to the advancement of Health Communication Science. The basic job, is to design effective behaviour change communication strategies based on participatory approaches including media and interpersonal communication channels which may facilitate a dialogue among different stakeholders involved in a public health communication campaign.
You can also work as a communication professional with advertising, public relations and marketing agencies as a strategic communication expert to create public health campaigns, public advocacy, examining health information and studying the effects of media on health.
Where to Study and the Eligibility :
Presently many departments of Communication of Universities are offering Health Communication as one of their subjects. Institute of Health, Management and Research (IHMR), Jaipur, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Manipal University, Karnataka, and a number of health institutions are offering different health communication components as a part of their curricula.
The eligibility to take admission in these courses is generally a Bachelor’s in Biology stream or in any other subject depending on the institute offering the course and having some understanding of health issues.
Medical Institutions offering the courses generally prefer medical students to opt the Health Communication Programs. The selection is generally based on a written test followed by a personal interview.
Now many management institutes have also started to teach health communication as a part of their MBA programs in Health Management.
The courses generally include Communication Training, Public Relations, Communication Research, Media Writing and reporting as their course work.
Where to look for the Job :
Government Health Organizations, Agencies and Departments, Academic and Research Institutions, International Health Entities, Media Organizations, Non – Government Organizations Working in Health Sector generally advertise their vacancies in newspapers.
Websites of these organizations also give you the details of the jobs, eligibility and application procedure. You can work with these agencies as a health communication specialist, health journalist, researcher and media consultant.
The salary in Health Communication sectors depends on your qualification and experience, your expertise in health issues and on your communication skills. Having a Degree or Diploma in Health Communication along with a basic understanding of health issues can help you to earn 10,000 to 15,000 at entry level positions.
A Master’s or Doctoral Degree in Health Communication is recommended for more opportunities. Big non government organizations can offer good remuneration to health communication professionals for their different projects.
International donors and government partners also offer good positions for people having a good understanding of cross – cutting support in health communication research. A strong leadership, team development and networking skills may promise you a high position in health management sector.
Excelling Your Skills :
As a health communicator one should have a good understanding of the principles of effective communication to plan and create initiatives at all levels, from designing a brochure or website to a complete communication campaign.
Successful health communication programs involve more than the production of messages and materials. They use research – based strategies to shape the products and determine the channels that deliver them to the right intended audiences.
As a health communicator one should have to learn to teach and train intended audiences often youth to deconstruct media messages so they can identify the sponsor’s motives.
The advocacy part requires the efforts to change the social and political environment in which decisions that affect health and health resources are made by influencing the mass media’s selection of topics and by shaping the debate about those topics.
Today no single approach is likely to achieve the goals of any health communication project, program or activity. Exchange encourages the use of the most appropriate approaches, methods and communication tools to stimulate and support a sustainable communication process.
It requires skill, patience and sufficient time to understand the situation and the health and communication needs of the people involved in the process at the health communicator’s end.