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SciPICH Publications IconWired for Health and Well-Being: The Emergence of Interactive Health Communication

Editors: Thomas R. Eng, David H. Gustafson

Suggested Citation: Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health. Wired for Health and Well-Being: the Emergence of Interactive Health Communication.  Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, US Government Printing Office, April 1999.

Download in PDF format:  [Entire Document] [References]


As we close out the century, the promise of good health for all Americans seems both tantalizingly close and frustratingly far away. We have made great strides in preventing disease and extending life. However, the science base, which makes progress possible, has not been effectively shared among all who need to understand and act on it. We can do a better job of translating this knowledge into useful communication for all people, and extending it to underserved populations who often carry the heaviest health burdens. New and emerging communication tools may help bring life-enhancing knowledge to people in ways they can use, when and where they need it.

Information and education have long been vital tools for promoting health, controlling disease, and raising the quality-of-life in our families and communities. The desire to improve the health status of all Americans, while ensuring that those facing the highest risks receive special attention, is prompting, among other efforts, innovative communication activities to improve health-related decisions by the public and health professionals and to strengthen the relationships between them.  Increasingly, these health communication activities incorporate computer-based programs, including health-related Web sites, online discussion groups, and e-mail. The rapid development of new technologies, coupled with the explosive growth of the Internet, brings opportunities for people to find interactive information, education, and support that is tailored to their needs and preferences. Equally important, the new connectivity creates links among individuals, public agencies, businesses and employers, community resources, health professionals, health plans, academic institutions, and other private organizations—all of which, together, are necessary to ensure health and well-being.

To date, there has been little evaluation or quality control of interactive health communication because applications have been developed faster than theory and assessment tools. The Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health has carefully considered the issues involved and defined the problems and opportunities. Their path-breaking work presents a broad strategy and specific guidance for promoting sound, appropriate assessment of this emerging field. This report will be valuable for all those who are interested in ensuring the quality and effectiveness of these exciting, but often misrepresented, health communication innovations. Each stakeholder, including policymakers, health care providers and purchasers, public health professionals, application developers, and consumers and patients, has a special role to play. Together, we can ensure that information and communication technologies fulfill their promise and contribute to better health and well-being for all people.

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David Satcher, MD, PhD

Assistant Secretary for Health and
   Surgeon General


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Comments:   Updated: 05/01/08