Based on an ecological model of health, the mission of MPH@GW’s Health Communication focus area is to educate public health professionals to use communication and marketing as strategic tools to influence people, places and environmental conditions in ways that advance public health initiatives. This focus area is designed for people looking to develop strong communication skills and who want to collaborate with other health practitioners to lead and execute impactful public health campaigns to improve a specific geographic area or demographic.
Social media and the internet have enabled health education and awareness campaigns to reach a broad audience very quickly, and the boom in new technology and health care apps means an increased amount of data is available to analyze health trends and create successful programs. To leverage these tools and opportunities, the industry needs strong communicators with leadership skills and marketing expertise to drive health care initiatives.
What Can I Do With a Health Communication Focus?
This health communication degree program will enable you to implement and supervise the communication and marketing components of public health initiatives, often to negate false news or biases in media reports. If you focus on health communication, you will create and lead clinical- or community-related awareness initiatives that promote health screenings, educational programs, immunizations and other advocacy efforts.
Milken Institute School of Public Health faculty research around health communication includes geriatric education, school-based violence prevention and surveillance of HIV-1 drug resistance in North America.
Fields of Interest
If you graduate with a degree in health communication, you may work closely with the media, responding to their reporting of health matters, communicating risk and confirming or rectifying stories. You may also design campaigns around a myriad of topics, including school-based health initiatives, anti-tobacco programs, violence prevention and health disparities in minority populations.
Graduates with a focus in health communication have gone on to work in private consulting firms, research institutes, wellness centers and large government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Career Paths and Salaries
MPH@GW graduates have pursued the following health communication careers:
Graph illustrates the May 2015 median annual wages for occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics . Salaries are included for marketing analyst ($62,150), communications and advocacy officer ($59,430), agriculture and food scientist ($62,470), anthropologist ($61,220), health psychologist ($72,580) and sociologist ($73,760).
Employment of marketing specialists is estimated to grow by 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations1. The rising need for marketing professionals in health-related fields is due to the evolution of social media, advancements in technology, and increased efforts to improve individual and community health and promote healthy behaviors.
For more information on health communication and its impact on the health care industry, read the following blog posts:
If you choose to focus on health communication while earning your master’s online with MPH@GW, you will complete 9 to 11 credit hours and select from the following courses:
PubH 6056: Leadership Seminar
This course provides students with the opportunity to learn leadership lessons from the careers of a diverse group of leaders who are successful executives and entrepreneurs from multiple sectors, including corporate, government, nonprofit and the arts. It will present the chance to discuss and reflect on leadership styles, provide exposure to leadership theory, assist in the development of effective networking skills, and prepare students for effectively engaging with their peers, personal network, potential employers and business partners. The Leadership Seminar deliberately provides a unique setting for students to consider themselves as leaders in their personal lives and their careers.
PubH 6430, Global Health Communication Interventions
This seminar provides students a foundation in key behavior change and communication theories relevant to global health communication interventions. Case studies in lectures and readings illustrate the application of theory in the development, implementation, and evaluation of health communication programs. Skills attained will enable students to apply theory to public health practice within a global context. In addition, students will practice essential communication skills for public health practice.
PubH 6514, Preventing Health Disparities
The purpose of this course is to provide students with an understanding of how social, political, and economic factors contribute to disparities (e.g., racial/ ethnic, gender, geographical) in health and health care and how to use evidence-based approaches to prevent or address health disparities. Upon completion of this course, students will be able to understand, define, measure, and develop methods to address health and health care disparities. This course will review theoretical frameworks and methodological tools for students to conduct research and develop interventions to reduce health disparities. The main objectives for this course include examining personal attitudes, acquiring knowledge, and gaining the skills to evaluate, discuss, and develop the programs/interventions/policies designed to prevent or address disparities in health and health care.
PubH 6571, Social Marketing
This course focuses on the use of marketing to change the behavior of people, populations, and policy makers in ways that are in their, and society’s, best interest. Students in this skills-based course will study and work in teams to apply a range of marketing strategies to a real-world situation.
PubH 6572, Marketing and Research for Public Health
This course focuses on the use of marketing research techniques to better understand customers of public health programs, and thereby to improve program design, implementation, and effectiveness. A range of qualitative and quantitative techniques will be studied for their relevance to program planning, development, continuous improvement, and outcome evaluation.
In the commercial sector, the purpose of marketing research is to help managers and marketers know their (prospective or current) customers, so that they can develop products and services that will provide value to – and be valued by – their customers. In public health we must always keep in mind that, for the most part, public health programs are voluntary in nature. That is to say, our prospective customers are free to accept or reject the products or services that we offer them. Our success therefore typically hinges on our ability to design products and services that benefit populations and are valued by beneficiaries in our intended target audience. This course is intended to teach you how to use marketing research techniques to do just that.
Take the Next Step
If you are ready to advance your career in public health with an online MPH from GW, request more information today.