This research examines the role of culture as a factor in improving the effectiveness of health communications and campaigns. This paper is by Matthew W. Kreuter and Stephanie M. McClure who work at the Health Communication Research Laboratory in St. Louis, Missouri, and the School of Public Health in Saint Louis Missouri. Kreuter and McClure describe the culture and how it may be applied to audience segmentation and introduce a new model of health communications. This model consists of three components: source, message, and channel factors. This research article explores how each component of the model is affected by culture and concludes with insights into the future of health communications and culture.
Health communications and culture go hand in hand. It is agreed upon that culture is learned, shared, adaptive, and reflected in a group’s values, beliefs, norms, and communication.
The increased focus on culture coincides with the national health objectives that seek to reduce the differences between different populations on health-related outcomes, behaviors, and conditions. For example, words like cultural sensitivity and cultural appropriateness are now in the day vocabulary of health professionals. When cultural characteristics are understood by others, health communication campaigns can be customized to meet the needs of its members.
In order to reduce limitations, it is important to think of culture regarding health communications as a complex and dynamic variable, instead of a variable that is simple and fixed.
For each input variable from the health communications model, Kreuter and McClure asked themselves: how does this variable influence communication effectiveness, and how does culture influence the input variable? What first came to mind as an answer to these two questions was: the source factor. Source factors are made up of two dimensions, which are expertise and trustworthiness. Reviews show that when these two elements are included in a campaign, the messages are more persuasive. Also, messages that are liked, similar to them, include videos and photos and are visually attractive tend to be more persuasive. The authors randomly assigned one hundred African American women in a health clinic in Milwaukee to watch one of three videos on HIV testing. The first video had an African American male as the narrator, the second video had an African American female as the narrator, and the third with the same female narrator with an emphasis on culturally relevant consequences of not being tested. Results showed the third video was most effective in getting women to get tested.
Next, the researchers focused on how the study of the message influences health communication effectiveness. Kreuter and McClure came to the conclusion that due to so many different message variations that have been examined, it is beyond their scope to provide their own research on such an extensive topic. Instead, they reference previously done health-related studies that reflect their beliefs. They believe there are four approaches to develop the most persuasive messages for a health campaign: peripheral, evidential, linguistic, and sociocultural. Peripheral approaches seek to enhance the effectiveness of a health campaign by packing its content in a way that is likely to appeal to a specific audience segment, evidential approaches focus on enhancing the perceived relevance of the health message, linguistic strategies focus on providing the health campaign in the culture’s native language, and sociocultural approaches present health messages in the context of cultural characteristics of the intended audience.
Lastly, the researchers focused on how channel factors influence communication in health campaigns. The first step, according to Kreuter and McClure, is to recognize the unique characteristics that make up each communication modality. It is also important to remember the target audience must have access to the selected medium channel. They did a poll to determine how the minorities felt the media viewed their ethnic group. 48% of African Americans were not satisfied with how their local newspaper covers their community, and 74% of African Americans felt the media were not covering enough stories related to their race’s illness.
Kreuter and McClure’s future recommendations include three types of methods to continue their research: secondary analyses, evaluations of communications programs, and field tests. This article is a good read for IMC students and health professionals so they can understand how to create the best health campaign possible. As long as the culture is continued to be considered an important factor in health communications, research about the correlation between these two topics will continue to grow and result in the most beneficial and most persuasive health communications.
To read the full article visit: https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.25.101802.123000
Kreuter, M., & McClure, S. (2004). The Role of Culture in Health Communication. Journal of Review of Public Health, 55(8), 52-65.