Health Communication as Applied Communication Inquiry

Authored by: Gary L. Kreps , Ellen W. Bonaguro

Routledge Handbook of Applied Communication Research

Print publication date:  June  2009
Online publication date:  July  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805849837
eBook ISBN: 9780203871645
Adobe ISBN: 9781135231798


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The status of individual and collective health and well-being powerfully influences the quality of people’s lives. Illness, disease, and infirmity can cause significant pain, suffering, and expense for those afflicted, as well as for their loved ones (who often provide needed care and support), interfering with people’s work and home life. In response, health-care and health-promotion activities have arisen as important social processes for helping people respond to and prevent illness, enabling them to reduce the problems associated with poor health and to participate as fully as possible in life. Indeed, the modern health-care system—which includes physicians, nurses, other immediate health care providers, public health agencies, health profession educational programs, hospitals, clinics, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), pharmacies, nursing homes, hospices, medical equipment and supply companies, and health insurance companies—is a massive interorganizational infrastructure designed to promote health and well-being (Starr, 1982). Promoting health, however, is a complex process, with the health-care system often proving difficult for people to access and negotiate. Effective communication, consequently, is essential for enabling health-care providers and consumers to access and navigate the system, share relevant information, combat significant health risks, influence health behaviors, and deliver the best possible health-care. Communication, thus, is important to all aspects of health prevention, maintenance, illness, treatment, and recovery.

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