02.230HT Health Communication and Behavior Change

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There is an increasing recognition of the role social and technological factors play in shaping the health and well-being of individuals. Communication, from the personal to mass and social media, have been demonstrated to have both beneficial and harmful effects on health and well-being. This course provides an introduction to the theory and practice of health communication and behavior change. It will cover the definition and history of health communication, the role of media and technology, social scientific theories used in health communication and behavior change, as well as how these theories can be applied to the real-world. The course will aim to bridge theoretical knowledge with real-world examples, and is suitable for students with varying interests, especially those who are interested in harnessing communication, design, and technology for better health and well-being in society.

Understanding how and why facets of communication influence health outcomes is essential for students interested in developing effective technological and design solutions that improve health and well-being. Some questions we will tackle include: What social, environmental, and technological factors are effective in influencing people’s behavior? How should they be designed and molded? Can stories help people engage in healthier behaviors? How can technology and design help to foster better health and well-being in society?

Learning Objectives

  • Identify and describe different health communication and behavior change theories
  • Discuss, assess, and evaluate existing global or local health communication efforts targeted at different health issues, using insights from health communication and behavior change theories
  • Design a health-related intervention, technology, or campaign based on health communication and behavior change theories

Measurable Outcome

  • Explain the basic assumptions behind social scientific understanding of human behaviour
  • Describe multiple theoretical approaches to understanding human behaviour in the context of health
  • Apply social scientific theoretical lenses to critique real-world health interventions
  • Utilize and translate theoretical insights into design choices for the development of various health interventions

Course Requirements

Assessment Percentage
WEC – Class participation 10
WEC – Weekly quiz 10
WEC – Individual essay 30
WEC – Group presentation 10
WEC – Final group report 40

Weekly Schedule

Week 1 – Course introduction: Definition, History, and Value of Health Communication

Week 2 – What drives behavior? An overview of psychological and communication theories in health

Week 3 – Normative influences on behavior

Week 4 – Attitude and consistency in behavior change

Week 5 – Message features: Persuading through entertainment & fear appeals

Week 6 – Dual-process theories and nudging behaviors: A look at choice architectures

Week 7 – Recess week

Week 8 – Interpersonal communication

Week 9 – Technology in health communication

Week 10 – Planning and developing health interventions

Week 11 – Measuring the impact of health interventions; Group discussion andconsultation

Week 12 – Ethics of health communication and persuasion; Group discussion and consultation

Week 13 – Group presentations

Week 14 – Group presentations; Final report due