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Major setback for health communication: National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advancing Health Communication Science and Practice research program paused


September 14, 2023The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the lifesaving role of health communication, especially in times of crisis. Rampant mis- and dis- information and a divisive political climate threaten to undermine this role, compounding the challenges of the pandemic and further impacting public health. Despite the dangers mis- and dis- information present to public health and cross-sector efforts underway to try and mitigate their impact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) decided to pause a $154 million research program that included the development, testing, and sharing of new approaches for effective and equitable health communication. 

According to a recent KFF survey, Americans frequently encounter health misinformation — including false claims about COVID-19 and vaccines, reproductive health, or firearms — and most people struggle to identify false information. The uptake of artificial intelligence (AI) including large language models like ChatGPT have potential to blur the line between fact and fiction even more. The pandemic further highlighted systemic inequities contributing to health disparities. In fact, medically underserved communities including people of color, those who live in rural areas, and individuals who recently immigrated to the United States, are most susceptible to the harms of mis- and dis- information. 

“The Society for Health Communication strongly advocates for robust investment and study of health communication, which is critical to ensuring we can effectively understand and address current, emerging and future communication obstacles to public health,” said Michael Grela, President, Society for Health Communication and EVP, Head of Reputation, Public Health & Social Impact, Evoke Kyne. “We must take a collaborative approach to rebuild our nation’s trust in science and public health, providing all people with clear, timely, and actionable guidance to make informed health decisions, and ultimately help advance health equity.” 

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WebMD and Medscape's Division of Public Health Team Helping Agencies Educate, Communicate, and Evaluate

By: Steve Murphy, Director Public Health

When you ask a public health professional if they know of WebMD, they undoubtedly have and will often share a story about how they always look up information on the site about their or their family's condition. Many also know about WebMD’s healthcare professional-focused sister site, Medscape, though unless they are a licensed healthcare professional, they may not be fully aware of its free educational content and reach.

Both sites were established more than 25 years ago and have been committed to informing and educating clinicians and the public about current healthcare topics, preventions, treatments, and innovations. With a foundation rooted in clinical excellence and strengthened with a network of leading physicians and subject matter experts, WebMD/Medscape has become a trustworthy destination for clinicians and patients alike. WebMD leads all Internet health sites with more than 65 million patient and consumer visitors per month and Medscape membership continues to grow year over year, reaching over 1 million physicians and 2 million healthcare practitioners in the United States. Our faculty includes top names in practice and academia from renowned institutions such as Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, and Mount Sinai.

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Applying Human-Centered Design Principles and Developmental Evaluation to Engage Populations Underrepresented in Medical Research and Health Care Providers with All of Us


Medical research participants need to reflect the diversity of communities across the United States to drive health care innovation that benefits everyone. However, medical research has historically underrepresented members of populations from diverse backgrounds or those with complex diseases. Consequently, we know less about the overall health, effective treatments, and disease prevention for these populations often left out of medical research, and as a result health care often uses a one-size-fits-all approach. 

To fill this gap, the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program is working to enroll one million or more participants in a longitudinal research program and is prioritizing enrollment of members of communities historically underrepresented in medical research. All of Us is working to develop a robust dataset that researchers can use to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs, enabling individualized prevention, treatment, and care for all of us.

Engaging Populations Underrepresented in Medical Research and Health Care Providers

Many populations underrepresented in medical research have been stigmatized, mistreated, and ignored by the scientific community. Appropriately engaging members of these communities is critical to ensure that individuals make informed decisions about enrolling and remaining in All of Us. One strategy All of Us is using is to collaborate with trusted intermediaries, like health care providers and community-based organizations.

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Society for Health Communication Elects 2023 Executive Leadership Team


January 19, 2023The Society for Health Communication, a member-driven organization working to advance the science of health communication, has re-elected Michael Grela, EVP, Head of Reputation and Social Impact, Evoke Kyne as its 2023 President and Ashani Johnson-Turbes, PhD, Vice President and Director, Center on Equity Research, NORC at the University of Chicago as its 2023 Vice President, and elected Stacy Robison, MPH, MCHES, President and Co-Founder, CommunicateHealth as its new Member-at-Large. 

The trio will partner with the Society’s Steering Committee, Advisory Board and Executive Director Diane Brodalski to advance the mission and goals of the Society through networking opportunities, information and best practice sharing, educational trainings, webinars and events. Grela is responsible for overseeing its Steering Committee and partnering with Johnson-Turbes to set and achieve its long-term strategic, diversity, equity and inclusion, and overall growth goals. Robison will focus on organizational member engagement and retention, and management of its Advisory Board.

“Outstanding vision and leadership! I’m thrilled that Michael and Ashani will continue for another year in their roles and pleased to welcome Stacy as our new Member-at-Large,” said Jay M. Bernhardt, PhD, MPH, Founder, Society for Health Communication, and Professor and Dean, The University of Texas at Austin, Moody College of Communication. “With these leaders at the helm, I’m confident that the Society will expand its critical role as the leading voice for health communication, as it continues to deliver meaningful impact within the field and beyond.”

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I Am Because We Are: Empathy and Altruism in Health Communication


When I was an undergraduate studying abroad in South Africa, I learned about the Zulu word ubuntu, which roughly translates to “I am because we are.” It’s a simple but profound idea: we each become who we are because we’re inextricably interconnected to others around us. Ubuntu became a refrain I used to guide my choices toward the greater good: pursuing a career in public health, getting involved in political activism, volunteering for vaccine clinical trials, and most recently, donating a kidney to a stranger. 

Donating an organ to a someone you don’t know is also called “nondirected” or “altruistic” donation. Lots of people have asked what motivated me to donate a kidney — incorrectly assuming I must have a loved one in need. The real reason I donated is simple: thousands of people on the transplant waitlist die every year waiting for a kidney, yet most of us have two perfectly good ones. This was a way for me to set empathy and altruism into action.

Living kidney donation is a life-saving act of altruism. You can donate a kidney to someone you know, or to a stranger in need. Kidney transplants from living donors generally have better outcomes for the recipient, and donors can go on to live normal healthy lives with 1 kidney. 

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Recently Launched CDC COVID-19 Resources now Available for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Wes Quattrone, MA; Stephen Brown, MS; Molly Lynch, MPH; and Jenna Frkovich, MPH, RTI International

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have faced new and unique challenges since the onset of COVID-19. People with IDD have experienced higher rates of hospitalization and mortality from COVID, as well as reduced access to community services, higher rates of comorbidities, and increased barriers for obtaining proper healthcare. These risks were exacerbated by communication impediments that can make understanding and acting upon public health guidance more challenging.

As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently funded the creation of a COVID-19 toolkit that provided resources with clear explanations of protective behaviors, such as how to get a COVID-19 vaccine; how and when to wear a mask and social distance, how to get a COVID-19 test, and how to practice good hand hygiene. Developed by RTI International and their partner, CommunicateHealth, the toolkit consists of plain language public health communication materials in both English and Spanish, such as videos, posters, social stories, and interactive activities.

To develop the toolkit, the CDC hosted multiple discussions with adults with IDD and their caregivers, including both English- and Spanish-speakers, to test the materials and provide feedback at several points along the resource development process.

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Key to CDC’s future: significant investment and effective health communication

September 6, 2022 – The Society for Health Communicationa non-profit organization of more than 4,000 professionals working to advance the science and practice of health communication, applauds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recent reorganization announcement by its Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. The Society for Health Communcation urges the leaders of the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services to fully embrace the science of health communication and to significantly increase its health communication infrastructure investments. The CDC should recognize health communication as more than a service. Health Communication is a multidisciplinary field of study and practice, grounded in science and evidence, and commited to promoting health equity

In addition to working to simplify public guidance and increaseits workforce diversity, the Society for Health Communication believes CDC’s independence from politics and reinvestment in public health systems at the national, state, territorial, and local levels is crucial to reestablishing CDC as our nation’s premier public health agency.   

Accurate, reliable, timely, and actionable information from trusted scientists and decision makers are the building blocks of public health and are critical to guiding and protectingAmericans during health emergencies, said Michael Grela, President, Society for Health Communication. The CDC reorganization is an important opportunity to reestablish health communication as a multi-disciplinary field to help address mis- and dis-information, the lack of trust and confidence in evidence-based, public health science, and the significanthealthcare disparities that prevent all Americans from achieving their best possible health.

About the Society for Health Communication
The Society for Health Communication is a member-drivenorganization bringing together health communication professionals and scholars to create meaningful connections, share knowledge and exchange best practices across disciplines, promote health equity, and advance the science of health communication. The Society is a movement. Join by visiting and following us on Twitter @HealthCommSoc and LinkedIn @Society-for-Health-Communication.

Coming Back from COVID: Can We Rebuild Trust in Health Communication? By Shelly Spoeth, Member at Large, Society for Health Communication; Principal Associate, Abt Associates

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of planning and moderating a panel entitled “Coming Back from COVID: How Do We Rebuild Trust in Health Communication?” at the Society for Health Communication annual Summit. In its sixth year, the Summit is an exciting time to see old friends (this year, back in person!), make new ones, and hear from great leaders in the field of communication.

The goal – candidly and honestly hear from leaders in the field about what we have and have not done right as health communicators these past few years and help outline what we need to do now. When planning this I knew this topic would not be without its challenges, and I knew we needed the right people to talk about this. They needed to represent a variety of industries – government, academia, corporate – and be experts in the field, which led me to:

Jay Bernhardt, PhD, Professor and Dean, Moody College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin; Founder, Society for Health Communication
Darcy Sawatzki, MA, EVP, Head of Public Health, Evoke Kyne
Matthew McCurdy, MPH, Co-Founder, BLKHLTH

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My opening remarks for the 2022 Annual Summit for Health Communication

Edited excerpt from my opening remarks at the 6th Annual National Summit for Health Communication on June 14, 2022.

Welcome everyone to our 6th Annual National Summit for Health Communication, live and in-person for the first time since 2019, here in steamy Austin, Texas! Also, it's Pride month, so Happy Pride everyone!

My name is Michael Grela and I am the Head of Reputation and Social Impact for Evoke Kyne, a global, health communications agency, and I’m also the President of the Society for Health Communication, working alongside Ashani, Diane, Shelly, Jay, and many others.

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Society for Health Communication Elects Ashani Johnson-Turbes as 2022 Vice President

Society for Health Communication Elects Ashani Johnson-Turbes as 2022 Vice President


March 29, 2022The Society for Health Communication, a member-driven organization working to advance the science of health communication, has elected Ashani Johnson-Turbes, PhD, Senior Fellow, NORC at the University of Chicago, as its 2022 Vice President. Since joining the Society’s Steering Committee in 2020, Johnson-Turbes has actively supported the planning and execution of its 2020 and 2021 Annual Summits, the equitable expansion and diversification of its Steering Committee, all with a passion for health equity, health communication and research-based health interventions. 

She will work closely with recently-elected 2022 President Michael Grela and Member-at-Large Shelly Spöeth, Executive Director Diane Brodalski, and expanded Steering Committee to help achieve the Society’s member engagement and retention, diversity, equity and inclusion, and overall growth goals. 

“Over the past two years Ashani has made significant contributions to the Society, already serving as a trusted partner and leader of our work,” said Michael Grela, President, Society of Health Communication and EVP, Head of Reputation & Social Impact, Evoke KYNE. “I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Ashani to our Executive Leadership Team as we come together to advance health equity and positively contribute to the field of health communication.”

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