As health communication as a formal and internationally recognized discipline approaches it’s 40th birthday and its success seems evident, it is worth while stopping up and asking two fundamental questions: What are the achievements of health communication? And; what are current challenges in health communication? As a scientific discipline health communication has grown enormously since it was formally recognized as a sub-discipline to communication in 1975 when the Health Communication Division was first recognized at the International Communication’s Association (Freimuth 2004: 2053). Today it is a well established discipline, mostly in schools of public health, and to a lesser degree in schools of media and communication. It is also a discipline with very particular characteristics. The Journal of Health Communication conducted a review of the first 10 years of their own journal’s publishing health communication research (1996-2006). It was a review which revealed a very clear profile of what health communication is, and is not. The study comprised of 321 articles, and the profile of the published material was as follows: ‘Its primary author is a U.S. academic. It probably focuses on smoking, HIV=AIDS, or cancer. It is an empirical research study, more likely to use quantitative, specifically survey methods, rather than qualitative methods. It probably is not driven by theory. It is much more likely to examine mass media communication than interpersonal communication. Its purpose is just as likely to be audience analysis as message design, as evaluation of a planned communication intervention. If its purpose is to evaluate a planned communication intervention however, that intervention is almost certainly a successful one.’ (Freimuth, Massett and Meltzer 2006: 11). This characteristic is further deconstructed in section one of this article where I reflect upon the characteristics of the discipline, presenting core achievements in health communication, also identifying and discussing what hasn’t been achieved. This is done based on a more recent article reviewing the field published in The Lancet in 2010. One significant characteristic of health communication as represented both in the Journal of Health Communication review and by the Lancet review is the significant absence of social sciences, in particular sociology, anthropology, media studies and political science. As I argue in section two of this article, it has as a consequence that some of the overall processes of globalization, development of risk society and the changing social relationships that are having significant implications for the health, well being and everyday life of ordinary citizens. This is to a degree, I argue, that calls for a fundamental rethinking of global health communication today and for an inclusion of these subject areas and scientific disciplines. My basic point here is that a much stronger interdisciplinary approach is needed in health communication in order to grasp the complexity of contemporary health challenges and the health communication responses to these. Thirdly, and in recognition of the interdisciplinarity of the field, I explore health citizenships and in particular how two stronger societal development trends are influencing the articulation of health citizenships. These development trends are mediatisation and globalization. On one hand our world is increasingly mediatised which is setting a whole new agenda regarding the formation of norms, values and lifestyles. On the other hand the multi-dimensional challenge of globalisation is challenging out national frameworks for responses to public health challenges and emphasizing the need for transnational collaboration. In order to understand the social determinants and the rights of ordinary citizens, we therefore need to complexify our conceptual approach to health communication, exploring the processes and challenges of mediatisation and globalization. Finally, I wrap up this chapter by formulating three statements w which hopefully can help us advance the research agenda of global health communication in the future.
Handbook of Global Health Communication, 2012, p. 608-622