We are an interdisciplinary team of researchers who study how media and messaging shape opinions, attitudes, and behaviors of multiple audiences. We co-design, conduct, and disseminate results of this research to enhance understanding of the ways that communication can help to advance health and racial equity through health and social policy.
Our research is conceptually organized around a vision of three interconnected research areas that inform communication strategies to advance health and racial equity.
Our core team includes researchers at three institutions: Cornell University, Wesleyan University, and the University of Minnesota. While each institution leads a research hub focused on a particular approach to the study of communication, with a focus on media and messaging (as described in the figure above), our team’s work is fundamentally interconnected, and we all share an emphasis on promoting and supporting policies to advance health and racial equity. Collectively, our research tracks the content of media (including news and advertisements); examines the impact of media messaging on attitudes, values, and behavior; and identifies new opportunities to work with journalists, public health officials, affected communities, and advocacy organizations to put the research findings into practice to advance health and racial equity.
We organize our work in three areas:
Media Tracking Hub
We monitor the volume, content, and variation in news coverage and advertising on a broad set of population health–relevant messaging in both local news sources and broader strategic advertising.
Media Impact on Mindsets and Values Hub
Once we have documented key messages in the media ecosystem, we assess the effects of this messaging on multiple audiences, which requires understanding these audiences’ values, beliefs, and predispositions. We use both randomized messaging experiments (which help us to identify specific message content that influences key audiences) and longitudinal, observational field studies (which test relationships between the overall content and volume of media messages) to inform communication strategy for social change.
Engagement, Dissemination and Implementation Hub
In turn, we feed these insights into engagement and dissemination strategies that build upon our knowledge of and relationships with various audiences who are best positioned to act on our research findings.
These three hubs of our media research collaborative are fundamentally interconnected: the insights from each hub inform and position the others to collectively build and learn from strategic efforts to shift opinions and change narratives to advance health and racial equity through health and social policy.
Core Research Team
Jeff Niederdeppe is Associate Dean of Faculty Development for the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and a Professor of Communication and Public Policy at Cornell University. His research examines the effects of media campaigns, strategic messages and news coverage in shaping health behavior, social policy and health equity.
Neil Lewis Jr. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University and Division of General Internal Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. His research examines how people’s social contexts and identities influence their motivation to pursue their goals, and the implication of those processes for interventions to improve health equity.
Jamila Michener is an Associate Professor of Government and Public Policy at Cornell University. She studies poverty, racism, and public policy, with a particular focus on health and housing. She is author of the award-winning book, Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism, and Unequal Politics. She is Associate Dean for Public Engagement at the Brooks School of Public Policy, co-director of the Cornell Center for Health Equity, co-director of the Politics of Race, Immigration, Class and Ethnicity (PRICE) research initiative, and board chair of the Cornell Prison Education Program.
Norman Porticella is a Research Associate in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. His research examines public engagement in science, community science capacity, and health communication. He also manages the department’s Mobile Media Lab and related data collection.
Kwanho Kim is a Postdoctoral Associate at Cornell University. His research examines the influences of the public communication environment on health-related outcomes among people with different sociocultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Jiawei Liu is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. His research examines the effects of mass media messages regarding various public policy issues and public health issues.
Teairah Taylor is a PhD Candidate in Communication at Cornell University. Her research interests include health disparities, health equity, and community engagement.
Yiwei Xu is a PhD Candidate in Communication at Cornell University. Her research interests include health communication and media psychology.
University of Minnesota Team
Sarah Gollust is an Associate Professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Her research examines the influence of the media and public opinion in the health policy process, the dissemination of research into policymaking, and the politics of health policy.
Rebekah Nagler is Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in Liberal Arts and an Associate Professor in the Hubbard School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Nagler’s research examines the effects of routine exposure to health information in the media.
Yusra Murad is a PhD student in Health Services Research, Policy, and Administration at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Her research interests are at the intersection of housing, healthcare and journalism, with a focus on how media narratives can contribute to the ongoing work of establishing housing as healthcare; identifying structural racism as a driver of the housing crisis and subsequent poor health outcomes; and ultimately compel policy change.
Margaret Tait is a PhD Student in Health Services Research, Policy, and Administration at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Her research interests include the influences of media on health and social policy and related politics.
Carson Crane is an MPH Student in Public Health Administration and Policy at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Her research interests include health communication, community engagement, and policy making in response to emerging issues and technologies.
Quin Nelson is an MPH Student at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Her research interests include mental health equity and medical sociology.
Erika Franklin Fowler is a Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and a Co-Director of the Wesleyan Media Project. Her research tracks and examines the content and effect of local messaging in electoral and health policy settings.
Steven Moore is an Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University. His research explores the organization of racial attitudes in the mass public and how they shape and are shaped by various political phenomena, particularly public policy and media coverage.
Breeze Floyd is the Program Manager for the Wesleyan Media Project at Wesleyan University. She contributes to data collection and analyses for WMP’s research projects.
Pavel Oleinikov uses his background in social and natural sciences to advance the application of quantitative methods to data from the social world. A large part of his work lies in assisting Wesleyan faculty in integrating diverse data sources in the form of text, images, and data from APIs. Pavel has a PhD in Political Science from University of California, Santa Barbara.
Natália de Paula Moreira is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Wesleyan University. Her primary fields of interest are public opinion, political methodology, and public policy. Moreira received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of São Paulo in 2021. She also holds a master’s degree in political science and a BA in social science. From 2017 to 2018, Moreira was a visiting student at the political science department at Texas A&M University.
Markus Neumann is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Computational Social Science at Wesleyan. His research agenda revolves around the application of machine learning methods to social science data, particularly text, audio and images. He holds Bachelor and Masters degrees from the University of Mannheim and completed his graduate work in Social Data Analytics and Political Science at Penn State. His dissertation relies on tools from phonetics, electrical engineering and natural language processing to study nonverbal political communication, focusing on how U.S. senators shift their vocal style in accordance with the representational needs of their audience.
Jielu Yao is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Wesleyan. Jielu’s research interests center on political methodology and American politics. Particularly, she is interested in applying supervised, unsupervised, and deep learning techniques to non-traditional data such as text, image/video, and audio. Using WMP’s political ads, her dissertation examines crime rhetoric adopted by female and racial/ethnic minority candidates. Jielu received her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in Political Science in 2020.
COMM-Affiliated Researchers, Partners, and Centers
- J’Mag Karbeah, Division of Health Policy and Management, University of Minnesota School of Public Health
- Center for Antiracism Research and Health Equity, University of Minnesota School of Public Health
- Danielle K. Brown, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota
- Minnesota Journalism Center, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota
- Center for Health Progress
Additional External Collaborators
Here is a non-exhaustive list of our past and existing research collaborators outside of COMM.
- Colleen L. Barry, Cornell University
- Lori Dorfman, Berkeley Media Studies Group
- Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Jonathan Purtle, New York University
- H. Shellae Versey, Fordham University
- Liana Winett, Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health