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Health Communication Strategies

Planning

Health communication can take many forms, both written and verbal, traditional and new media outlets. While you might be excited to get started with your new program, you must first develop a sound strategic plan. All strategic communication planning involves some variation on these steps

  • Identify the health problem and determine whether communication should be part of the intervention
  • Identify the audience for the communication program and determine the best ways to reach them
  • Develop and test communication concepts, messages, and materials with representatives of the target audiences
  • Implement the health communication program based on results of the testing
  • Assess how effectively the messages reached the target audience and modify the communication program if necessary

For more information on the planning process, see Health Communication Basics.

Budgets for health communication initiatives vary. If your funds are limited, there are still opportunities to develop and implement health communications plans. Here are some tips for working effectively and efficiently on a tight budget:

  • Work with partners who can add their resources to your own
  • Conduct activities on a smaller scale
  • Use volunteer assistance from health communications specialists who may be able to offer pro bono services or consider retired specialists or professors and graduate level students from the local college/university
  • Seek out existing information and approaches developed by programs that have addressed similar issues to reduce developmental costs. See Campaign Resources page for examples.

Don't let budget constraints keep you from setting objectives, learning about your intended audience, or pretesting. Neglecting any of these steps could limit your program's effectiveness before it starts.

These resources will help you develop and deliver your health communication plans.

Gateway to Health Communication and Social Marketing Practice
From CDC, offers resources to build health communications and social marketing campaigns. Includes resources on audience, campaigns, channels, tools, risk communication, and evaluation.

CDCynergy Lite
A social marketing planning tool from CDC for those who have previous social marketing experience and familiarity with the full edition of CDCynery.

HealthCommWorks
CDC’s free, Web-based set of tools that synthesize research and expert consensus to optimize message development, social media strategy, and evaluation.

Online Health Program Planner
A collection of health planning tools from Public Health Ontario and the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools.

CDC MessageWorks
Resource to develop and defend effective messages.

Reaching Specific Populations
From CDC’s Designing and Implementing an Effective Tobacco Counter-Marketing Campaign, offers information on strategies to reach particular audiences relevant for any public health campaign.

Making Health Communication Programs Work: A Planner's Guide
A publication from the National Cancer Institute (also called the Pink Book), a revision of the original 1989 guide offering planning steps for health communications programs.

Healthy People 2020: Health Communication and Health Information Technology
Overview, objectives, and interventions and resources from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Health Communication, Health Literacy, and e-Health
From the US Department of Health and Human Services, a list of resources, including information on health literacy and e-health.

Last Updated: 
3/18/15