MU professor explains need to increase awareness and promote solutions to larger audiences
Posted June 11, 2008
COLUMBIA, MO - Media outlets recently reported the results of two studies that highlighted the increasing problem of health disparities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines health disparities as population-specific differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes or access to health care. Now, a University of Missouri professor explains in his new book that improving media coverage of health disparities will influence public awareness and promote efforts to reduce racial and ethnic differences in health care.
"There is a growing need for media to address health disparities and communicate to individuals how to make smart health decisions," said Glen T. Cameron, co-author of the book and co-director and scientific advisor of the Health Communication Research Center at MU. "Healthy living programs and wellness classes offered at hospitals and schools reach a small audience, about 20 to 30 people at a time. What we are trying to do is intervene and influence media coverage to encourage large, diverse groups of people to make smart health decisions."
In response to the large amount of health disparity research provided by from the perspectives of scientists and health care providers, Cameron and former MU doctoral student Qi Qui researched the perspectives of health communicators. Cameron and Qui's book, Communicating Health Disparities-Building a Supportive Media Agenda, explores clarify the crucial role of health communicators and the media in informing the public and encouraging behaviors to help close the racial and ethnic gap in health care.
The book features in-depth interviews with health care journalists and public relations practitioners throughout the United States to reflect on the and analyzes the content of black and mainstream newspapers.
"The good news is that health communicators see the power within the people. Journalists and public relations practitioners agreed that the role of media in disseminating health information with specific targets and promoting access to health care would help eliminate health disparities," Cameron said.
Cameron said that mainstream media should focus on racial disparities due to the diverse audience of the media. According to Cameron, there is a need for media to report in-depth, investigative stories that about health inequalities that include information that would help mobilize individuals and communities to make constructive changes. Report on figures and problems from studies and offer solutions.
"We need to better equip ordinary people to make smart health decisions. Whether it's scheduling a regular checkup, getting screened for cancer, or becoming a commissioner or activist for better medical equipment and health care in their community, people can be proactive for their own health and help reduce health disparities," Cameron said.
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