Health Communication

Apply communication theories to understand and change health-related cognitions, emotions and behaviors...


Scholars who focus on the study of Health Communication are concerned with how health information is generated and disseminated through mass media, social media, and personal communication channels, and how that information affects cognitions, emotions, and behaviors. The field encompasses the study of media effects on health, including entertainment programming, news, and advertising; interpersonal and social network influences on health-relevant behaviors; strategic campaigns and interventions employing traditional media and new technologies(e.g., mobile apps and serious games); and physician-patient communication in healthcare settings.

Our students learn about health communication in an interdisciplinary environment that includes the contribution of scholars from communication, public health, medicine, and human development. We encourage students to draw upon the wealth of expertise and experiences of our health communication faculty through collaborative research.As the demand for formal training in health communication increases,we recognize the need for systematic training of students and offer courses that address foundations, practices, and innovations in health communication.

Our program also offers methods courses to build research competencies. These include courses in traditional methods, such as experimentation and survey research methods; network analysis; and emerging computational methods.


Communication Faculty: Robert A. Bell, Bo Feng, Heather Hether, Jorge Peña, Jeanette Ruiz, Laramie Taylor, Narine Yegiyan, Jingwen Zhang.

Affiliated Faculty: Diana Cassady (Public Health Sciences), Richard Kravitz and Stephen Henry (Internal Medicine), Lisa Soederberg Miller (Human Development)

Ongoing Research Programs

Our faculty are currently involved in the following research projects::

  • Health communication interventions, emphasizing traditional media approaches, the education-entertainment perspective, social media, and persuasive technologies (games, personalized message algorithms, mobile apps, etc.)
  • Using persuasive messages to increase the effectiveness of mobile games targeting depression
  • Effects of features of entertainment programming on health beliefs, attitudes, and behavior
  • Development and testing of message strategies in health promotion and disease prevention
  • Effects and mechanisms of health (mis)information on attitudes and behavior
  • Psychophysiological responses to health messages
  • Health information sharing and social support in online contexts such as online forums and social media
  • Semantic network analysis of health information in online contexts 
  • Using network science to improve risk perceptions
  • Mutual influence in the physician-patient encounter
  • Pharmaceutical advertising effects on consumers, doctors, and patients
  • Overcoming parental resistance to vaccination
  • Healthcare public relations

Relevant Courses

CMN 232: Health Communication
CMN 233: Persuasive Technologies for Health
CMN 235: Health Communication Campaigns
CMN 243: Media and Health
CMN 282: Special Topics in Health Communication
MHI 210: Introduction to Health Informatics
SPH 210: Public Health Informatics
SPH 222: Social and Behavioral Aspects of Public Health
SPH 252: Social Epidemiology
SOC 254: Sociological Issues in Health Care

"What can I do with this?"

Education and research training in Health Communication contributes to one’s career within the fields of public health, strategic communication, and public advocacy. Students studying health communication can work in academic, industry, or public sectors. Example career opportunities include tenure-track faculty, quantitative analyst, behavioral scientist, and medical and health services manager.


"The Communication program at UC Davis allows me to rigorously explore my research interests. I truly appreciate the intense and broad coursework on theories, empirical methods, and statistical/data analysis, the seminars and projects that are theoretical and experimental, and my professors who challenge me intellectually and respect my creative adventures within and outside the field of health communication. These experiences provide me with diverse tools to pursue my own research program and broaden my thinking about the study of communication in general."

Meng Chen
Class of 2018

"I was so fortunate to be part of this program. Graduate seminars such as Health Communication not only gave me a thorough overview of the field, but also let me develop a research proposal which later turned into a publication in Journal of Health Communication. Professors in this program are genuinely interested in helping students succeed. I worked closely with several professors, learned different things from them, and developed my own research program with their assistance. I am truly thankful to everyone in this program for the quality education and experience."

Dr. April Li
Assistant Professor
Ohio State University