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Health Communication Core

The Health Communication Core (HCC) provides evidence-based communication expertise to investigators working in the areas of cancer prevention, control, treatment, and survivorship. The centralized resource offers complete communication-related consultation and professional creative services to support investigators who are applying for external grant funding, implementing interventions, or disseminating research findings. As a result, researchers have easy access to such state-of-the-art services as development, production, and testing of communication material and experts in health communication and behavioral sciences.

Communication plays a central role in the cancer control continuum, from prevention to survivorship and even end-of-life. As the emphasis on translational research increases, clinicians and basic scientists require assistance in developing appropriate communication strategies related to their discoveries. When clinical trials move from early phase to intervention, development of effective intervention and dissemination messages is particularly important. As new knowledge in cancer communication science emerges, there needs to be better integration of cancer communication science in order to effectively inform the design of intervention messages and platforms to successfully reach diverse target audiences such as health care providers, health care delivery systems, cancer patients and their families, mass media, worksites, schools, and the general public. Importantly, in order to attract racial and ethnic minorities to research studies, including clinical trials, tools for education, recruitment, and retention must be culturally sensitive, reflect the needs and values of their intended audiences and should be developed using appropriate message formats and executional elements.

Increasing evidence indicates that the effectiveness of intervention messages can be enhanced when communications are tailored or customized to fit the profile of the intended audience and are based on communication and behavioral science theories. The contemporary developments in communication technologies that offer an array of information delivery platforms provide a singular opportunity to combine the efficiency of mass communications with the appeal of personalized delivery by a health professional. At the same time, health in general and cancer in particular are receiving increasing attention in the media, although the coverage is not always accurate or timely.

Given this context, the Health Communication Core helps investigators to develop intervention and communication strategies customized to the target audience. This Core allows investigators to take advantage of the latest evidence-based, most cost-effective, state-of-the art intervention strategies for designing and delivering interventions in diverse settings and for a wide range of populations. The Core specifically assists DF/HCC investigators when they need assistance with planning an intervention, applying for funding, developing recruitment and other study materials, utilizing new media platforms such as websites and social networks to reach their audiences, or producing high-quality, effective materials.

Listed below are a few examples that illustrate how the core has contributed to various projects:

The Health Communication Core developed an extensive set of intervention materials for a tobacco-cessation pilot and, subsequently, full intervention among school teachers in India, The Bihar, India School Teachers Study (BSTS) (Glorian Sorensen, MPH, PhD (DFCI)). Materials included posters, wall calendars, teachersí planners, training manuals, event banners, and signage. The collaborative project, co-conducted by Indian and US-based researchers, required innovative translation, production, and delivery workflow to ensure the development of culturally competent, effective materials. The materials proved so popular with the teachers that, at their request, the Core developed a Souvenir Booklet which compiled all of the images and key information points (Risk Reduction, NIH).

A multiple-risk factor NCI-funded intervention directed at patients, called Healthy Directions, was made available to participants as a web- or print-based intervention, both of which were developed by HCC. Retaining participants and encouraging them to return each day to track their health habits and thus maintain daily interaction with the study was a major challenge. The Core successfully met this challenge with tailored content based on each personís daily recorded data; a blog; a searchable recipe database; and interactive goal-setting modules.