USC’s Science and Health Communication Research Group Sponsors Lunch and Learn with Senior Editor for Health Communication and RTI International Senior Research Scientist
Dr. Brian G. Southwell, Senior Research Scientist in RTI International’s Health Communication Program in Research Triangle Park and Research Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spoke to USC’s Science and Health Communication Research Group (SHCRG) and the public Feb. 24. More than 40 researchers, faculty and students from across the USC campus attended this lunch and learn sponsored by the SHCRG.
Southwell’s presentation, titled “Engagement of Social Networks for Health and Science Communication Projects,” addressed the meaning of conversation, connections between people and implications for strategic communication efforts. Southwell suggested that there are three plausible roles for conversation in terms of health and science communication projects: talk as an outcome of a campaign; talk as a mediator of campaign effects; and talk as a moderator of campaign effects. He emphasized that conversation is goal-oriented, driven by human needs and desires and it is not always easy to harness.
“We need to recognize that audiences are not comprised of isolated individuals but rather are made up of people who live in social networks, networks that might either amplify or dampen our efforts to improve public understanding of science and health through media campaigns,” said Southwell.
Southwell presented research that he conducted for the Minnesota Department of Health’s Sage project, a breast and cervical cancer screening program, to determine how to maximize referrals for mammogram screenings. Surprisingly, he found that altruistic motives yielded more referrals than financial incentives. He also found that the availability of network ties in a neighborhood positively impacted referral; those communities with more religious congregations per capita, for example, were more likely to nominate women to participate in the program.
Findings from Southwell’s talk will be published this summer in the American Journal of Health Promotion and were published in fall 2010 in Social Science and Medicine.
Southwell is currently Senior Editor for Health Communication, and his research on science and health communication has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and other sources. His theoretical contributions appear in more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters in publications such as Social Science and Medicine, Communication Theory and Communication Research.