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Health Communication


Course Objectives

  • To achieve an advanced comprehension of the tenets and main research areas and topics in health communication
  • To obtain an advanced understanding of the nature and function of theories in the field of health communication
  • To become familiar with the major theories in health communication
  • To demonstrate the ability to analyze, synthesize, compare, and contrast the relevant literature in health communication

Course Description

Communication in the area of health is a central concern for policy makers, economists, and academics. Researchers who examine the impact of communication on health and health care delivery are privileged to focus upon processes of fundamental human import. The media play a key role in each of these debates and the importance of provider-patient interaction is an ever-growing concern in the dissemination of quality health care. The key question in relation to communication and health is how to maximize health outcomes through optimal communication. This course is designed to offer both a broad perspective to main topics in the field of health communication such as doctor-patient communication, health and the media, risk communication, health literacy, and e-health. In addition, this seminar will include a comprehensive review and evaluation of current theories in health communication.

Learning Methods

A careful preparation of the provided readings is an important component of the course. Each class period will start with discussion of the readings of the sessions (see the schedule): the purpose is to stimulate critical examination and discussion of key issues in the readings.

Each student is responsible for the preparation of all mandatory readings. For each paper participants have to prepare max. 5 PowerPoint slides, indicating the main claims of the paper and – optionally – questions that arise while reading the paper. These slides have to be uploaded on iCorsi by Tuesday at noon at the latest. It is expected that students will actively participate in-class discussion throughout the course and semester. We may call on students randomly during the semester to ask them to contribute their thoughts.


Unexcused absence (for both online and on campus classes) is not permitted and can lead to an exclusion from the course. Absence of two or more times requires a medical certificate.

Examination Information

Course evaluation is based on individual and group assignments, class participation, preparation of readings and a final written exam. Weighting with respect to grades will be as follows:

  • Final exam: 65%. There will be a final written exam for this course. Students will be asked to answer questions related to the readings and topics discussed in class. The questions may not only ask for straightforward facts but may also require a transfer or application of the acquired knowledge.
  • Assignments and class participation: 35%. During the course, students will also be required to hand in individual essays and participate to group assignments. A deadline will be set for submitting each of these assignments.

Requirements to pass the course: To successfully pass the course, students need to pass all three of the above described course components. Further, students can be excluded from class, resulting in a failure of the course, if they do not attend the class regularly (see “absence”).

Required Material

  • T. Thompson & P.J. Schulz (eds.): Health Communication Theory. John Wiley & Sons, 2021


1. Session: Orientation

  • Schiavo, R. (2007). Health communication. From theory to practice. (Chapter 1: What is health communication?, pp.3-29). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Du Pré, A. (2010). Communicating about health: current issues and perspectives (3rd ed.). (Chapter 1 Introduction, pp. 3-18). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

2. Session: Doctor-Patient Communication

  • Ong, L. M. L., de Haes, J. C. J. M., Hoos, A. M., & Lammes, F. B. (1995). Doctor-patient communication: A review of the literature. Social Science & Medicine, 40(7), 903-918.
  • Roter, D. L., & Hall, J. A. (2006). The Nature of the Doctor-Patient Relationship. In: Doctors talking with patients/patients talking with doctors: Improving communication in medical visits (2nd ed.) (Chapter 2, pp.23-38). Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Street, R. L., Makoul, G., Arora, N. K., & Epstein, R. M. (2009). How does communication heal? Pathways linking clinician–patient communication to health outcomes. Patient Education and Counseling, 74, 295–301.

3. Session: Health Literacy

  • Nutbeam, D. (2008). The evolving concept of Health Literacy. Social Science & Medicine, 67, 2072-2078.
  • Schulz, P. J., & Nakamoto, K. (2013). Health literacy and patient empowerment in health communication: the importance of separating conjoined twins. Patient education and counseling, 90(1), 4-11.


Schulz P. J.

Course director

Bullo A.