Research Methods in Health Communication
In 1964, the Surgeon General of the United States issued his report based on 7.000 articles in
which the Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health concluded that cigarette smoking is
a cause of lung cancer in men and a probable cause of lung cancer in women and called for
appropriate remedial action. Ever since, public health organizations and government agencies
around the world have launched campaigns aimed at decreasing the prevalence of smoking.
Still, it took forty-five years for the Canton Ticino to institute a smoking ban in public buildings,
and in 2006, it was still the case that 29 percent of Swiss males and 23% of Swiss females
were regular smokers. Clearly, the success of the anti-smoking communication campaigns have
enjoyed mixed success.
In order to design effective health campaigns, we leverage our understanding of human cognition and behavior. However, we can speculate endlessly about the causes of behavior and how we can use communications to change it. Only through systematic study and evaluation can we learn whether or not our speculations are correct. In this course, we will introduce a variety of tools you can use to design and conduct communication research to gain behavioral insights.