Course syllabus

Public Health 608

Health Communication

Semester: Fall 2016

Meeting day and time: Mondays 12:20pm – 2:50pm

Meeting place: Morrill III, Room 212

Professor:  Aline Gubrium

Office location:  304 Arnold House

Office phone:  413.545.2244

Office hours:  By appointment


Course blog:

PDF of course syllabus

Course Overview

This is a three credit hour course designed to provide students with a critical understanding of the effects of the media—mass, social, and participatory—in promoting and impeding the achievement of public health goals. Students will develop the skills necessary to use media strategically to advance public health policies and social change. The course covers the design, implementation and evaluation of media campaigns to promote public health goals, examines theories and research on media influences with respect to its potential harmful effects on wellbeing, and students design a digital media-based health communication campaign.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Articulate a critical understanding of basic theories, models and assumptions about the effects of the mass, social and participatory media and health communication;
  • Think strategically about the use of communications to advance a public health organization’s goals and objectives and identify the strengths and weaknesses of different communications options;
  • Formulate a strategic plan for a focused communications strategy and provide a rationale for the selected communications strategy, reflecting both scientific and practical considerations;
  • Involve community members and organizations in strategic communications development, especially in eliciting input from those who will be affected by the campaign;
  • Formulate appropriate, culturally centered, and measurable media campaign objectives;
  • Develop plans for evaluating media campaigns, appropriately tailored to a variety of communication methods and techniques;
  • Analyze the public health implications of messages conveyed by mass and social media (TV, radio, movies, Facebook, YouTube, etc.), and;
  • Appreciate the ethical dilemmas inherent in the use of strategic communications designed to persuade people to change their behavior.

Readings will be available on the course blog or distributed in class. A (possibly clearer) Ebrary connection to the Handbook of Global Health Communication chapters can also be found at:

Course Format and Requirements

Given the interdisciplinary nature of public health, and the broad utility of critical consciousness, this course engages a range of information sources and presentation modalities, e.g., lecture/discussion, student presentations, interactive group exercises, scholarly texts, film/video, websites, and guest speakers.  The course uses the notion of the classroom as a “community of learners” as its foundation.  As such, each class member is expected to participate in both learning and leading discussion as the semester unfolds.  This not only assumes preparation, but also active engagement. The value of this class is directly proportional to the amount of effort participants put into preparing for class discussions about the issues presented in the readings. Class participation will carry the same weight as other major assignments in assessing individual grades. To promote student engagement, you will sign up to be part of a group that will lead discussion for one class session.

The course takes a graduate seminar format. Students are expected to complete all reading assignments and to come to class prepared for discussion and debate. In addition to seminar participation, there are three assignments for the course: 1) lead discussion of one week’s readings; 2) post weekly blog reflection responses; and 3) participate in a digital storytelling workshop and design a health communications campaign around this experience.

Generally speaking, the first hour of our class meeting time will be a focused discussion on the course readings, which will often be led by the assigned group. We will take a brief 15-minute break in the middle of class (around 1:20pm), and then proceed with the digital storytelling portion of the class for the last hour and 15 minutes (1:35 – 2:50pm)

First Assignment/Discussion leader: Each student will be part of a two-three person group that is responsible for presenting and leading discussion around one week’s readings. The discussion will be led for the first hour of class (60 minutes long). High quality presentations include 1) a handout that summarizes key points; 2) questions for discussion or activities to promote student engagement with the readings; 3) additional relevant material to guide and provoke discussion. These materials must be turned in during the class session when the readings are under discussion. No late handouts will be accepted.

Second assignment/Weekly blog reflection responses: Over the course of the semester you will be writing blog entries on the course blog ( Your blog posts essentially serve as reflection papers on the course readings. Further, they may be used as resources when constructing your digital stories. Make an effort to draw connections between the readings in your blog posts.  Blog posts are due online the night before class (Sunday by 5:00pm). I would also like to encourage each of you to respond to others’ blog posts—the blog is a forum for creating a community conversation on the assigned topics.

Blog posts will be graded using a “check” or “check-plus” format. Blog posts receiving a “check” are those that review the readings, and engage with discussions and course activities in a summary fashion, but do not expand much beyond this. Blog posts receiving a “check-plus” are those that review course materials, link course materials to outside experiences and alternative ways of learning about course materials, and critically consider what is learned from course readings, discussions and activities.

Third Assignment/Digital storytelling workshop and health communication program: In this component you will participate in a digital storytelling workshop, produce a digital story , and then plan and design a health communication program/campaign around the workshop and the digital story/ies you have produced. The digital storytelling workshop process and product will encourage you to synthesize what you have learned and demonstrate health communication practice. It also has the potential to allow you to enact and realize your roles as future community health educators. The topic you choose should engage with methods and theories related to the major themes and to relevant problems/issues of concern to professionals in the discipline of community health education. Students are required to work in groups and engage in a collaborative process to identify thematic clusters and brainstorm individual topics. You are encouraged to work together in groups to construct their health campaign. All projects must be approved. Students will offer constructive feedback to their peers as they read each other’s scripts and preview early versions of the stories. At the end of the semester we will screen the stories, with others offering supportive feedback and evaluation. With student permission, the digital stories may be posted on the course blog and/or department website as a way to foster dialogue on the given topics and connect to the field of public health at large. Finally, students will write up a report (print or online) based on this experience.

Grading: The final grade will be computed on the basis of the following assessments:

Class Participation 20%

Discussion leader (group) 10%

Blog reflection responses 20% (10 blog responses/2% each)

Digital storytelling workshop/health communication campaign 50% (Digital story produced/50% and health communications campaign design/report/50%)

Two or more unexplained absences will result in a re-assessment of the final grade.

Policy on Academic Honesty

Since the integrity of the academic work of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. [Examples of behavior that constitutes academic dishonesty can be found at:] Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. The procedures that are intended to provide an efficient and orderly process by which action may be taken if it appears that academic dishonesty has occurred and by which students may appeal such actions are described in the Dean of Students Code of Student Conduct, available at:

Students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity. Ignorance of these standards is not sufficient evidence of lack of intent.

Cell phone and laptop policy

Turn your cell phones off or to the “silent” mode during class. Students seen texting, chatting, or checking email on their laptop computers or cell phones will be asked to leave class for the day and will be considered absent for the class period.

COURSE OUTLINE (Subject to modification. Articles to be read for date listed)



Health communication: From theory to practice: What is health communication?

Health communication: From theory to practice: Interpersonal communications

Aline leads discussion 12:20 – 1:20 (+ Sayantani Dasgupta Ted Talk video:

Digital storytelling workshop: Introduction to digital storytelling, talking and writing prompts, collaborative brainstorming, topic and team selection (1:35 – 2:50)


The Routledge handbook of health communication: How medical interaction shapes and reflects the physician-patient relationship (Roter & Hall)

Narrative Inquiry: “The self-telling body” (Charon)

Routledge handbook of health communication: Ethics in communication for health promotion in clinical settings and campaigns: New challenges and enduring dilemmas (Guttman)

Group 1 leads discussion 12:20 – 1:20

Digital storytelling workshop: Writing prompt (last slide), script writing. Consider how your digital story can fit into a larger/group health communication campaign. Think about the public health and social science literature you might incorporate into your story. One-on-one meetings with each student to discuss story ideas and how they will fit into the group campaign (1:35 – 2:50)


Health communication: From theory to practice: Overview of the health communication planning process (+ Appendix A)

Health communication: From theory to practice: Situation analysis and audience profile

Health communication: From theory to practice: Identifying program objectives and strategies

Group 2 leads discussion 12:20 – 1:20

Digital storytelling workshop: Rough draft of script ready to present during small group (peer) review of scripts; script revisions (1:35 – 2:50)


Media advocacy and public health: Public health and media advocacy

Media advocacy and public health: The advocacy connection

Guest lecture by Sarah Lowe, PhD student in Health Promotion and Policy, UMass Amherst 12:20 – 1:20pm

Meet with your group and one-on-one with Aline to further develop the digital story script/s and health communication plan and implementation strategy (1:35 – 2:50)

*Final scripts submitted for review to Aline on Friday, October 14th by 5pm via email!


The Routledge handbook of health communication: Developing effective media campaigns for health promotion (Silk, Atkin and Salmon)

The Routledge handbook of health communication: Social marketing: Its meaning, use, and application for health communication (Edgar, Volkman and Logan)

Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine: Science and scepticism: Drug information, young men and counterpublic health (Farrugia & Fraser)

Group 3 leads discussion 12:20 – 1:20

Digital storytelling workshop: Record voiceovers, image selection (one-image discussion via index cards), and editing. WeVideo accounts and (tutorials) (1:35 – 2:50)


Health communication: From theory to practice: Culture, gender, ethnic, religious, and geographical influences on conceptions of health and illness

Health communication message design: Theory and practice: The cultural variance framework for tailoring health messages (Davis & Resnicow)

Handbook of global health communication: Community health and social mobilization (Campbell & Scott)

Group 4 leads discussion 12:20 – 1:20

Digital storytelling workshop: Continued voiceover recording, image selection, and editing (1:35 – 2:50)


Interdisciplinary Journal of Humans in ICT Environments: “The process of remembering with the Forgotten Australians: Digital storytelling and marginalized groups” (Hancox)

American Journal of Public Health: “A situated practice of ethics for participatory visual and digital methods in public health research and practice: A focus on digital storytelling” (Gubrium, Hill & Flicker)

Sexuality Research and Social Policy: “Strategic authenticity and voice: New ways of seeing and being seen as young mothers through digital storytelling” (Gubrium, Krause & Jernigan)

Aline leads discussion 12:20 – 1:20

Digital storytelling workshop: Review sample blogs and sample report for digital story campaigns from Fall 2015. WeVideo rough-cut editing tutorial and work (1:35 – 2:50)


Journal of Health Communication: “The art and science of patient storytelling–Harnessing narrative communication for behavioral interventions: the ACCE Project” (Houston et al.)

Routledge handbook of health communication: Narrative turns epic: Continuing developments in health narrative scholarship (Sharf, Harter, Yamasaki & Haidet)

Handbook of global health communication: Participatory health communication research: Four tools to complement the interview (Greiner)

Group 5 leads discussion 12:20 – 1:20

Digital storytelling workshop: WeVideo, complete rough cut editing (1:35 – 2:50)


Communicating health: A culture-centered approach: The culture-centered approach to health communication (Dutta)

Critical Public Health: “The pedagogy of disgust: The ethical, moral and political implications of using disgust in public health campaigns” (Lupton)

Aline leads discussion 12:20 – 1:20

Digital storytelling workshop: WeVideo, final cut editing (1:35 – 2:50)




Health Communication: “Theoretical approaches to entertainment education campaigns: A subaltern critique” (Dutta)

Communication, Culture & Critique: “Power, control, and the margins in an HIV/AIDS intervention: A culture-centered interrogation of the ‘Avahan’ campaign targeting Indian truckers” (Dutta & Archaya)

Aline leads discussion 12:20 – 1:20 (+Video: Cultural Humility)

Digital storytelling workshop: Complete final cut editing (1:35 – 2:50)

DECEMBER 12TH: Digital Story Screening and Sharing of Project Ideas

Final draft of health communication project/report is due emailed or sent as a web link to Aline by 5pm, Monday, December 19th.