chapter  18
30 Pages

From Prevention Vaccines to Community Care: New Ways to Look at Program Success

WithWilliam Smith

Does public communication change health behavior? What evidence of such change is convincing? And how can inconsistencies of effects across studies be explained?

This book focuses on communication effects. Communication is a vast concept that runs the gamut from any exchange between two or more people to the study of mass media effects on large-scale populations. This chapter restricts communication to any organized deliberate attempt to influence human behavior through large-scale message strategies-that is, by exposing large-scale populations to messages about behavior. It includes all channels of communications-interpersonal, paid media, earned media, and digital media. It refers, henceforth, to this subset of the broader communication concept as “public communication.” This definition excludes what is called “secular” communication events, such as Magic Johnson’s announcement of his HIV status, the death of Princess Di, or news coverage of the cigarette deal. This distinction is tricky. Take the news coverage of the proposed 1997 cigarette deal. If that coverage could be shown to have been orchestrated deliberately by a specific intervention program (e.g., media advocacy), then it would be included as part of the definition of public communication. This chapter is interested in intention as well as effect in this somewhat narrow and arbitrary definition of public communication. If there is a deliberate attempt to influence news coverage of an issue, then such an intervention qualifies as public communication under the definition herein.