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Why Communication Science


Communication Science in Action:
Genetic Counseling

June PetersWith June Peters, Genetics Counselor


Communication Science in Action:
Clinical Trials

 Clinical Trials: Susan McMullen


Communication Science in Action:
User-Centered Research

Connie DresserSBIR: Connie Dresser


The Science of Health Communication and Informatics:

NCI's Health Information National Trends Survey - the HCIRB's surveillance vehicle on cancer communication - indicates that almost half of all Americans have searched for cancer information. However, there are striking differences between where people said they preferred going and where they actually went. The majority of all respondents expressed a preference to communicate with their physicians first; yet those who actually searched opted to use the Internet as their primary source of information.

Clearly, communication technology is creating change in the ways in which people obtain cancer information. Creating an efficient and equitable path to cancer information through new media as well as old media will be essential for realizing broad population goals.

The Need for Communication Science

  • Advances in communication technology have opened up exciting possibilities to intervene and influence the trajectory of cancer control and prevention, across the cancer continuum.
  • Technological developments such as the Internet have transcended the traditional barriers of space and time and have greatly increased the breadth and depth of information exchange.
  • Now, more than ever, users are tapping into the "Web" to access vast amounts of health information.
    • As early as 1999, surveys revealed that health information seeking was a frequent and common practice on the web, and a 2003 Health Information National Trends Survey reported that nearly 64% of Internet users have searched for health information on the Internet at some point in their lives.
    • The most recent Pew Internet Report (2005) found that 79% of internet users, or roughly 95 million American adults) have searched online for information on at least one major health topic.
  • By and large, many people are using the Internet as a medical module to define, develop and determine their health strategy. However, the impact of this information on behavior change, population level morbidity, health disparities and the overall health care system is unclear.
  • Advances in technology alone are not enough.
    • 75% of respondents claim there are "too many (cancer) recommendations to know which ones to follow."
  • It is imperative that we work to build a sound, scientific evidence base to improve cancer communication. Communication is the final link between discovery and behavior.

How the HCIRB is generating a seamless communication infrastructure

The Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch (HCIRB) works closely with its extramural partners to steer the science of cancer communication toward the singular goal of reducing the death and suffering due to cancer. Cancer communication empowers consumers to make informed cancer-related decisions and to adopt behaviors to improve their health. Lives are saved through communication interventions that influence positive behavioral changes and the HCIRB is dedicated to accelerating the research and development of a seamless communication infrastructure that increases access to and use of cancer information, improves consumer understanding of cancer information, enhances patient/provider interaction, and effectively moves research results into clinical practice and public health programs.

The Impact of Communication Science: Examples from HCIRB

link to scientific advances


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DCCPSNational Cancer Institute Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health