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Dr. Yachao B. Li Lecture Provides Insight on Difficult Health Communication Topics

On November 8, 2019, Dr. Yachao Li presented his talk, titled “Communicating Health: From Interpersonal Health Conversations to Public Health Messages,” as part of the Faculty Lecture series for the ArtsComm Seminar.

The presentation focused on two health communication studies conducted by Dr. Li and his research team. The first project examined how heterosexual partners negotiate condom use to protect their sexual health, which provided an example of interpersonal health communication. The second study investigated the effectiveness of pictorial warning labels on tobacco products, offering an example of public health communication.

Dr. Li started the lecture with a definition of health communication, which is “the study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence decisions and actions to improve health.” He pointed out that health communication functions at different levels and he would focus on how individuals talk about health-related issues with their close others and how health messages are communicated to the public via mass media.

In the section, “Negotiating Condom Use,” the importance of condom use to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) was first discussed. Dr. Li then reported a project in which young adult participants were instructed to negotiate condom with professional actors. Dr. Li and his team found that participants who used condoms more often in real life were more likely to use we-language during the role plays, because we-language indicates mutual responsibility. Thus, he suggested young people to use we-language to talk about condom use with their sexual partners.

In the section, “Communicating the Risks of Tobacco Use”, Dr. Li referred to statistics on the burden of smoking in the United States. He presented an online experimental study where over 1,500 adult smokers viewed and responded to different warning labels on cigarette packages. Before revealing the results, Dr. Li had the class participate in a Kahoot! Poll to solicit the opinions of the students. The class reported the same results that Dr. Li found: participants who viewed high-emotion-arousing pictorial labels reported the highest levels of quit intentions, followed by those who viewed a low-emotion- arousing pictorial labels and text-only warning labels.

These topics are especially important and relevant to college students, given that young people are at disproportional risk of STIs and are more vulnerable to the risks of tobacco use. Dr. Li demonstrated the importance and procedures of health communication research, as well as offered students takeaway messages based on the two studies. In the conclusion of his lecture, Dr. Li stated, “health communication informs and influences individuals’ health behaviors and policy decision-making”, which was successfully presented in his lecture.

To close, Dr. Li gave a quote on what his mother, who is a physician, always told him as he was growing up, which is an important message to keep going forward, “The best way to treat a disease is to prevent the disease.” Dr. Li added, in order to prevent diseases, health information must be communicated effectively through health communication, just as Dr. Li has done by providing such information in his lecture.

Article credit: Alexandria Crans