How Do You Become a Health Communications Specialist?

For those with a keen interest in health care, becoming a health communications specialist is a pathway to playing a key role in this sector without being involved in the technical aspects of patient care delivery. Communication is crucial in all aspects of health care whether the encounter is between provider and patient or between policy makers and the general public, according to the World Health Organization. Especially where public health is concerned, it is important to have someone take charge of crafting the appropriate messages and delivering these messages to the right audience through the most efficient channels. The health communication specialist develops content based on guidelines provided by health care providers or health policy administrators and determines the best way to reach the individual or the community.

Scope of Functions of a Health Communications Specialist

Typically, the health communications specialist will be involved with federal or state agencies that oversee public health on the federal, state or community level. The first goal of communications policies in the health care environment is educational and informative in nature. Research-based information about making healthy choices to enhance quality of life and prevent disease development are packaged in easy-to-understand content and disseminated as print materials, video-based content or infomercials on public airwaves.

In preventing the spread of diseases, communications play a significant role in informing target populations about preventive measures, recognizing the symptoms and providing advisories that outline recommended treatment strategies. Making crucial information about community health public prevents the spread of misinformation and the subsequent panic and unnecessary hysteria.

To become a health communications specialist, you have to hone your content creation skills for all channels of communication including traditional print and broadcast options as well as social media alternatives. You may also be given the task of spokesperson, so you have to prepare to speak and take questions from big and small audiences.

Academic Requirements and Other Credentials

As a communications specialist, it is logical to have a bachelor’s degree in communications, journalism or similar field. You could also start with a bachelor’s in public health, health care administration or a related discipline with major and minor studies in courses related to communications such as technical writing or science journalism.

To advance in your career, a master’s degree in public health with a focus on health communications will expand your career opportunities. It is also possible to approach this career from a different angle: Establish a career as a technician first and a health communications specialist later. For instance, you could train to be a nurse and build up your credentials as provider delivering direct patient care. Find opportunities to transition to the administrative side and eventually shifting s communications position.

Impact of Effective Communications in the Healthcare Setting

In a global environment, the health conditions of any population are easily affected by the environment, their behavior individually and as a whole and other social and political factors. Managing non-crisis and crisis situations in health care requires the active involvement of communications specialists. Proactive communications helps in controlling the spread of health hazards while encouraging healthy lifestyle choices.

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To become a top-notch health communications specialist, you have to hone your communication skills and health sciences knowledge base. You will find employment opportunities with federal and state agencies or with private, nonprofit organizations. This is a position that may include back-office tasks such as research-related functions, collaboration with health care providers along with front line responsibilities such as making public presentations. According to the National Institute of Health, It is a role that is gaining prominence as health issues become global concerns and not just local issues.