While research has examined the role of communication in reducing, maintaining, and even widening health inequities, comparatively less attention has examined the content and effects of communication about health equity itself. Our work explores public concern about health inequities, examines how audiences react to messaging about health inequity, and describes strategies to avoid common misunderstandings that stem from depictions of health disparities without explicit attention to their social determinants.
The increasingly politicized information environment in the US around a variety of health issues creates substantial challenges for communication. One such challenge is the risk of messages creating polarized responses that entrench differences between political groups. Our work describes these and other challenges, identifies the political content of certain health topics in media, and evaluates the effects of health messaging in the context of political polarization.
The United States is a segregated and stratified society in which people are geographically separated by race and class. Our work examines the interplay between the structure of the U.S. health and social system, and Americans’ psychological experiences in it, to identify strategies for more productive communication — including elevating the perspectives and experiences of groups who have been systematically excluded.
The social safety net – including policies to provide health insurance, food security, housing, early childhood education, and paid leave – is critical to support families and promote health equity. Our work on news media coverage and the role of media and messaging in shaping public perceptions of these services provides evidence on public understanding of the social safety net and insights into promising strategies to shift public and policymaker perspectives.
Stories that share the lived experiences of people, groups and communities can shape how audiences think about the causes of health and social issues. Our work identifies evidence-based storytelling strategies to enhance public understanding of complex social issues and the need for multi-faceted, systemic approaches to address them.
Our core team includes researchers at three institutions: Cornell University, Wesleyan University, and the University of Minnesota.
Support for this website was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.