Dr. Claudia Parvanta’s book builds student skills in health communication

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USF College of Public Health’s Dr. Claudia Parvanta, says media plays a big role in shaping our conceptions of health and illness.

She, along with her colleague Dr. Sarah Bauerle Bass, associate professor at Temple University, have unlocked the multiple ways that health and media intersect in “Health Communication, Strategies and Skills for a New Era,” published by Jones & Bartlett Learning.

The book, published in 2019, explores media representations of health, as well as the “secret sauce” for communicating about health using all forms of media.

“Health communication goes on all around you. On a daily basis, you observe people’s behavior, healthy or unhealthy, which is then rewarded or punished over time,” Parvanta said. “It’s not just our parents and our friends, it’s on television, in the movies—even music videos constantly depict good and bad choices which sometimes result in health-related consequences. Most people are unaware of how carefully scripted those scenes can be, and the health communication planning that goes into them.”

“Beside mass communication, our book also focuses on interpersonal health communication. Everybody talks about health either as a patient, or as a parent, or as a provider,” she said. “So, depending on where you are in your life and the role that you play, there are skills to learn that will make you a more effective communicator.”

The book is intended chiefly for undergraduate students in health science, but it’s also suited for entry level health professions. “Health communication crosses a lot of different domains,” she said. If you are planning to go into education, worksite wellness, health care delivery, or, of course, public health, this book has something useful for you.”

According to Parvanta, the book covers information from communication and behavior theory, to community-based program planning, to social marketing in order to equip students with the tools needed to develop effective and culturally appropriate health communication.

Claudia Parvanta, PhD. (Photo by Anna Mayor)

“When I started doing health communication, there was a knee-jerk reaction to use posters, pamphlets or TV spots to share health messages,” she said. “We have more media channels at our disposal now, but we haven’t really determined whether messages sent through social media have any long term impact on health behavior. So, applying the basic process of understanding the intended audience, and choosing media options carefully is still the best way to make a difference.”

The book is currently being sold by APHA Press as one of their leading textbooks, according to Parvanta, and is also available via Amazon.

Parvanta and her colleagues, Drs. David Nelson and Richard Harner, also wrote the book “Public Health Communication Critical Tools and Strategies,” for doctoral and master’s students to complement the Essential Public Health series published by Jones & Bartlett Learning in 2018.

She said she hopes to start a health communication course this summer at the USF COPH, as the topic is included as part of the certified in public health exam.

Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health