Introduction to Science-Health Communication – Part 1

>> Welcome to Introduction
to Science and Health Communications,
Part 1. This is the first part
of a four-part series in this training, and
my name is Yvonne Price. I am the instructor
for this training. So, communicating
science and health. This training is an introduction
and overview of science and health communication. Over the course of four
videos, we will look at all these different
elements of science and health communication:
What is it? Why do it? Who does it? What are the challenges? Exactly how does it happen? And how do you do it? So what is it? There are lots of
definitions out there, and many are quite complicated.

Most simply defined, science and health communication
is the transfer of science or health knowledge
from one individual or organization to another. What is effective science
and health communication? There are many things
involved in effective science and health communication. After all, it's its own academic
field and professional field, so there's lots of
different elements. But in this introductory
training, we are going to focus on two important elements
that anyone can practice. Effective science and health
communication is accurate and engaging. So why do it? Well, just like there are many
elements of effective science and health communication,
there's lots of reasons to do it, and I'm sure you
can think of some on your own.

First of all, it
affects everyone. It helps the public make
informed decisions that relate to their health, to
technology choices, to decisions that they may make in
elections with regards to policies and policymakers. It has an economic impact
in our everyday lives — developments that
come out of science and health innovation
and research. And all of that gets translated
to the public through the media. And so, it all takes
place through science and health communication. The way science and health is
communicated, how it's done from — from the source to
the public, can have an impact on the — on the public's
attitudes and beliefs about different issues.

Science and health, and
the communication of it, plays a large part
in our future. And again, policy — it
has a big impact on policy. Public understanding
about science and health issues is very
important, when they go to vote and they're making
decisions, with regards to who their policymakers
are going to be or what policies
they want to support. So, who does it? Well, lots of people do science
and health communications. We've got the scientists
and health professionals, stakeholders, policymakers,
media, and the public. Scientists and health
professionals are communicating with the media. The media feeds things
to the public. Scientists and health
professionals now — more than ever before — also communicate
directly with the public. The media are communicating with
stakeholders and policymakers, in addition to the public. And scientists and health
professionals also communicate directly with those
stakeholders and policymakers. Now, the stakeholders and policymakers are also
communicating directly with the public. And the public — their decisions will influence
how they support policymakers, or different companies
or organizations.

So it's really a
very intricate web, and there's many
different players. For an individual who is a
health professional or works with a health organization
or is a scientist, being able to communicate
effectively about your own research
and your own work is a very valuable skill. And as you can see, that's
a skill that translates down to the policymakers,
the stakeholders, the media, and the public. Trickles down to everyone. Challenges. There are many challenges
in science and health communication,
and we're going to focus on just a few of them. So, one of the big ones
is science literacy. So we've got a little
cartoon here. Why don't the greenhouse
gases escape through the hole
in the ozone layer? There's our sad little
polar bear on an island. Science literacy
is a big problem. There are many challenges in
producing effective science and health communications, and one of the biggest
is science literacy. According to the National
Science Board biennial reports, science literacy in
the United States and other countries
is relatively low.

So the National Science
Board puts out a biennial — biennial report — it
comes out every two years. And one of the things
they always look at is public understanding of
science and science literacy. Now, in addition to science
literacy being relatively low in the United States
and other countries, the average reading ability
in the United States is at the eighth-grade level. So you can imagine how this
might impact science literacy. This is an added
challenge, when you're — as a scientist or a
health professional — are working to communicate
with the public, who has limited science
literacy, and also limited
literacy in general. These are important
things to keep in mind, when you're composing a message. So, how science literate
are you? Now, this was a little quiz that
was given to me, when I was back in grad school, and we were
all in a program specifically for science and health
communications.

And so, we considered ourselves
to be fairly science literate, and we were a little
bit surprised by our own deficiencies. So, let's quickly just
take this little quiz. And I'm going to first
tell you that according to the national science
education standards from 1996, scientific literacy is
defined as the knowledge and understanding of scientific
concepts and processes for — acquired for personal
decision-making, participation in civic and cultural affairs,
and economic productivity. So, that's their definition
of science literacy. Simply put, science
literacy is the ability to follow complex
science or health issues and make informed decisions, based on an understanding
of those issues. So here's a few little snippets
from this quiz that was given by the National Science Board. So they asked people
all of these questions, and let's just look
at a few of them. So, does the Earth
go around the sun, or does the sun go
around the Earth? Electrons are smaller
than atoms. The earliest humans lived at
the same time as dinosaurs. These are three of the questions
on this quiz, that they asked, and I'm going to share
with you the results.

So, the Earth does go
around the sun, yes. 71% of people got
that question correct. Electrons are smaller
than atoms. This is true. 45% of the people —
45% of the population in the United States is able to
answer correctly that question. The earliest humans lived at
the same time as dinosaurs. This is false. Only 48% of people are
aware that this is false. The other 52% of
the people believe that the earliest
humans did live at the same time as dinosaurs. And when you think
about the kinds of media that we're exposed to all the
time, the kinds of cartoons that we grow up with, and the
comics and the newspapers, you can understand what might
have perpetuated that idea in many people, that people were around at the same
time as dinosaurs.

We've got the B.C. comics
and the comic strips; cartoons on television, with
the caveman and the dinosaurs. So media play a big impact
in shaping understanding, perceptions, and
beliefs about science. According to the 2012 Science and Engineering Indicators
Report, the public's level of factual knowledge about
science has not changed much over the past two decades. So it's stayed relatively
the same. At the 2010 American
Association for the Advancement of Science annual
meeting, it was reported that over the past two
decades, science literacy in the United States
has nearly tripled.

But, the proportion
of people who fall into that category is very small
— only 28%, which is consistent with the findings in the
biennial reports done by the National Science Board,
which again suggests, in report, that science literacy
is very low. So this is an important
thing to consider, when you're producing
science communication for public audiences
and for the media. Because when you're
communicating with the media about science or health
issues, ultimately it's going to filter down to the public. So it's always important to keep
that public audience in mind and think about the
challenges in communicating with that audience and
who your audience is. This is the end of Part
1, Introduction to Science and Health Communication. We've looked at what science
and health communication is, why it's important,
and who does it. In Part 2, we'll look
at another challenge, and then examine the
process of science and health communication:
How does it happen?.

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