Building Health Communication Theories in the 21st Century
Recent reviews in the health communication literature might be taken by the unwary reader to reveal that theorizing and theory-based research are exceptional activities rather than the rule in this area. For instance, Beck et al. (2004) found that only 23% of 852 communication articles published in 19 journals in the years 1989 through February 2001 made explicit reference to theory within their abstracts. T. L. Thompson (2006) reported that only 13% of the 914 articles identifi ed in William Evans’s bibliographies published in Health Communication between 2005 and the fi rst issue of the journal in 2006 were classifi ed in his “Health Communication Theory and Research” category. These estimates surely understate the presence of theory in health communication scholarship. Many of the pieces that Evans places in the other categories within his organizing scheme are clearly theoryinformed or informing, although perhaps not “health communication theory” per se (e.g., risk, health belief, planned behavior, narrative, metaphor, conversation analytic). Moreover, given the fi eld’s pragmatic interests, we should not be surprised if authors deemphasize theory in their abstracts. So these observations are surely lower (perhaps quite low) bounds of theory-informed/informing activity in this area. We can just as surely conclude that health communication scholars are not preoccupied with theory-building. In writing this chapter, we are motivated by the belief that theoretically informed/informing work is of the greatest importance in this late-or postmodern age.