The Community Guide defines
health communication as:
“The study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual and community decisions
Health communication includes verbal and written strategies to influence and empower individuals, populations,
and communities to make healthier choices. Health communication often integrates components of multiple theories and models to promote positive
changes in attitudes and behaviors. Health communication is related to social marketing, which involves the
development of activities and interventions designed to positively change behaviors.
Effective health communication and social marketing strategies include the following components:
Use of research-based strategies to shape materials and products and to select the channels that deliver
them to the intended audience.
Understanding of conventional wisdom, concepts, language, and priorities for different cultures and
Consideration of health literacy, internet access, media exposure, and cultural competency of program
Development of materials such as social media posts, brochures, billboards, newspaper articles, television
broadcasts, radio commercials, public service announcements, newsletters, videos, digital tools, case
studies, group discussions, health fairs, field trips, and workbooks, among other media outlets.
Using a variety of communication channels can allow health messages to shape mass media or interpersonal, small
group, or community level campaigns. Health communication strategies aim to change people's knowledge,
attitudes, and/or behaviors; for example:
- Increase risk perception
- Reinforce positive behaviors
- Influence social norms
- Increase availability of support and needed services
- Empower individuals to change or improve their health conditions
Examples of media strategies to convey health messages include the following components:
- Flyers and brochures
- Social media (for example Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube)
Examples of Health Communication Interventions
Considerations for Implementation
When designing health communication or social marketing strategies, it is important to consider the overall
communication goals of the intervention. It is also necessary to understand the intended audience so that the
content created is relevant. It is important to tailor messages to the communication channel being used.
Further, using multiple communication and media strategies will ensure a broader reach. It is also important to
ensure that the intended audience has access to the communication channels being used.
Resources to Learn More
CDC Gateway to Health Communication
Provides resources on inclusive health communication. Includes training, tools, and templates, featured
campaigns, and guiding principles to support health equity.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Health Communication Evidence-Based Resources
Lists evidence-based resources focused on health communication methods and interventions supporting the
development of programs and policies to improve health and prevent disease.
Organization(s): Healthy People 2030
The Community Tool Box: Chapter 13 -
Implementing Social Marketing
Guides the development of social marketing activities to
support the adoption and use of innovations in health promotion to reach large numbers of people when
advocating for healthy behaviors and improved health outcomes.
Organization(s): Community Tool Box
Managing Messages: A Toolkit for Your Organization's
Helps rural healthcare facilities develop and distribute
announcements/messages through the media to inform, promote, and create positive public opinion about
their organizations. Topics cover developing a communication plan, working with the media, and crisis
Organization(s): University of North Dakota Center for Rural Health
Language for Public Health
Offers techniques on using plain language principles to create accessible and effective health messages,
advance health literacy, and promote overall community health.
Organization(s): Public Health Communications Collaborative