Why what we say matters

By Michael Grela

June 12, 2018

June 12, 2018 – Packing to head to DC this year for the Society for Health Communication Annual Summit a couple of weeks ago, I was excited not only to see health communications colleagues that I hadn’t seen in a while, but to meet some new ones, and to hear and learn from experts across academic, government and the private sector. And most importantly, I was looking forward to discussing the future of the Society, and the important role it plays in today’s environment filled with “alternative facts,” “fake news,” and the erosion of communications norms in the US and across the globe.

Not surprisingly, conversations further highlighted that we’re living in extraordinary times, and that the way we communicate, including the methods we’re using to develop and design our campaigns and messages, the individuals we engage to serve as spokespeople, and the channels we use to start conversations, have everything to do with our success in changing health behaviors. Honesty, accuracy and integrity are vital, but are hard to come by these days. In addition, the trust and credibility of our institutions continues to be undermined.

This makes our jobs as communicators all the more important – we must ensure transparency, authenticity and accessibility with our messages and be targeted and thoughtful in our approach. We must back up our methods with research and evidence, and test and course-correct when needed. At the Society, our plan is to focus on key areas where we can have the greatest impact – including sharing best practices across disciplines, connecting experts in the field, and advocating for important topics such as the development of health literacy standards.

Today, we’re facing enormous health challenges all over the globe: a massive opioid crisis in the US, stalled global progress on malaria control, and suicide rates in the US are on the rise, just to name a few. Communication can be a powerful health intervention, and as communicators, we have an awesome opportunity to help make an impact in these areas and others.

Working together, as a health communications community, we can create stronger connections that unlock new channels and opportunities and do more to advance the field, and ultimately have a greater impact on public health. If you’re interested in being part of the solution and meeting others who share these core values, become a member of the Society today.