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Communication Research in the Environmental Health Sciences

Abstract

The need to effectively communicate evidence-based environmental health messages to a range of stakeholders is fundamental for informed decision making about environmental risk factors. There are a range of strategies used to help communicate emerging environmental health science, but there are clear perceived drawbacks when relying on many of these approaches. For example, research findings and their environmental health implications are often communicated by scientists who focus on the accuracy and comprehensive explanations of the research rather than sensitivity to factors that will increase the acceptance of the environmental health messages. Communication efforts also are sometimes led by creative professionals who might be perceived as oversimplifying science so much that the true implications of the research are not appropriately reflected. Science journalists, often a primary source of information for lay audiences, are generally reliable interpreters of research; however, their availability and the outlets for which science journalists typically write are unlikely to maintain an ongoing focus on specific environmental health issues unless a crisis or timely news event is unfolding – and soon after their initial report on an issue, their interest wanes. While scientists, creative professionals, and journalists have an important role to play in communicating about environmental health issues, so do communication researchers.

In this chapter, a communication science approach is proposed to facilitate the creation of high quality environmental health risk messages that are evidence-based, theory-driven, and tailored to the needs of priority audiences. Key topics addressed in the chapter are the importance of formative research for understanding specific audience’s preferences and beliefs (audience analysis) and the identification of relevant media formats or channels to disseminate information through (channel selection), theory informed message design, implementation strategies, and evaluation approaches to reach a wide range of stakeholders with maximum impact. Finally, the chapter will systematically incorporate examples from the Breast Cancer and Environment Research Program (BCERP ) to illustrate key topics, processes, and strategies.

Keywords

  • Communication
  • Communication science
  • Evaluation
  • Message design
  • Breast cancer and the environment research program
  • Extended parallel process model
  • Heuristic systematic model
  • Theory of normative social behavior
  • Diffusion of innovations

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Silk, K.J., Totzkay, D. (2019). Communication Research in the Environmental Health Sciences. In: Finn, S., O'Fallon, L. (eds) Environmental Health Literacy. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-94108-0_3

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