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New interdisciplinary program is the latest initiative by three USC schools to meet the needs of public health communicators

The University of South Carolina is offering a new certificate program to develop expertise in health communication for graduate students and working professionals.


Two years in development, the Certificate of Graduate Study in Health Communication is a collaborative effort of the USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications; the School of Library and Information Science; and the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) of the Arnold School of Public Health.


Mugs of principals"I’m especially pleased that both schools within our college are part of this collaboration," said College of Mass Communications and Information Science Dean Charles Bierbauer.


"This certificate program is truly the product of months of hard work by multiple faculty across these three colleges at USC—and all for the betterment of health outcomes in South Carolina through more effective health communication," said Arnold School Interim Dean Dr. Tom Chandler.


The certificate is designed to enhance the professional or clinical skills of working practitioners in public health organizations and the media.


"It is a great way for working professionals to enhance their education without having to seek a master’s degree," said Dr. Daniela Friedman of HPEB.


It will also help academics and researchers to better design and evaluate health communication interventions using media, communication, and health behavior theory and frameworks.


"We feel there is an information and communication component to just about everything a university does.  But it’s especially critical that people have access to reliable and useful information regarding their health," Bierbauer said.


The certificate program requires 18 hours of post-bachelor’s study including a research project or practicum.  The curriculum is structured so that students experience an interdisciplinary core of courses and select an emphasis area in Journalism and Mass Communications; Library and Information Science; or Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior.  A limited amount of credit hours in the certificate program can be applied to other USC graduate degree programs.


The program culminates in a mentored research project or practicum.  Examples of practicum projects or internships will include appointments with local agencies involved with health communication, or with active research projects on campus or in the community.  Faculty members will work closely with students to help secure their practicum.


Dr. Ken Watkins, HPEB’s associate chair and graduate director, said interest in the program is growing.  "We have seen an enthusiastic response from current graduate students who are seeking an interdisciplinary approach to learning about the science and applications of health communication."


Six faculty members in the three collaborating schools are participating in the program with more expected to join as enrollment expands.


Dr. John Besley of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications is also looking forward to seeing the program grow over the coming months. 


"I hope all kinds of different students will get interested in studying health communication, whether it's an existing professional hoping to learn about the newest research or a young person who is looking for an area in which to specialize.  Health communication often attracts a diverse range of participants to everyone's benefit," he said.


For more information about the program, contact:


Dr. Daniela Friedman
Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior
Arnold School of Public Health
University of South Carolina
Phone: (803) 777-9933
E-mail: dbfriedman@sc.edu


Dr. John C. Besley
School of Journalism and Mass Communications
College of Mass Communications and Information Studies
University of South Carolina
Phone: (803) 777-4105
E-mail: jbesley@sc.edu


Dr. Feili Tu
School of Library and Information Science
College of Mass Communications and Information Studies
University of South Carolina
Phone: (803) 777-3858
E-mail: tuf@mailbox.sc.edu