chapter  33
13 Pages

Social Networks and Health Communication

ByThomas W. Valente

Introduction Public health and other agencies throughout the world promote many types of health behaviors, including immunizations, HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning, reproductive health, sanitation and hygiene, tobacco/substance use prevention, and adoption of healthy lifestyles and eating habits. Implemented in many forms, these health promotion programs are often accompanied by extensive research about their planning and eff ectiveness. Typically, many programs use a single medium, either radio or television, to communicate messages to mass audiences. As communication technology has advanced, experts are increasingly using multimedia approaches when communicating health promotion messages in order to accelerate behavior change. This chapter discusses how health communication programs and research can incorporate social network analytic methods to better inform the interpersonal processes inherent in health communication programs. Social networks are the connections among people in a group, society, community, or any defi ned population. Diff usion of innovations theory provides the foundation for this article and we begin by discussing its principles, followed by an explanation of its use in evaluating mass media campaigns. Throughout, we will highlight the importance and role played by interpersonal communication and social networks.