Design solutions to community health communication



Media & Communications Design


  • health, visual communication

The aim of health communication campaigns is to effect a change in behaviour and attitude.


These campaigns generally communicate a specific message regarding an epidemic or healthrelated issue. Health communication models can guide graphic designers to develop effective health communication messages. Some of these models, such as the Participatory Communication Model (PCM), suggest that involving the community in the communication process can produce clear and appropriate messages. The Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM) maintains that a health message must have a threat element and an efficacy element in order to be effective in changing behaviour. The EPPM can also use persuasive messages that stimulate fear in order to encourage people to adhere or respond to the suggested options. The perceived threat element of the message makes the viewers feel prone to the risk, whilst the efficacy element makes the viewer feel that he/she will be protected from danger if he/she follows the recommended option. These theories developed by scholars in this field are not always applied by graphic design practitioners to design solutions especially in the field of health communication.

The aim of this paper is two-fold: Firstly to propose a health communication model for a developing country such as South Africa, and secondly to partly reflect on a survey conducted in Lesotho by the first author. The survey evaluated the efficacy of loveLife’s outdoor visual materials. The proposed health communication model is based on existing health communication models (the PCM and the EPPM) and relevant results of the survey about loveLife’s outdoor visual material.

The model proposes that a community health communication messages must follow a “bottomup” development process; that it must ideally contain a threat element; that this threat element does not necessarily have to be intimidating in nature and that there must be an attainable efficacy element. The model further suggests that the development of the material must take cognisance of the cultural vogue of the audience; that the graphic imagery must harmonise with the efficacy element rather than the threat element; and that prominence can be given to positive graphic imagery. These strategies can enhance the comprehension of visually-based messages, which in turn could bring about the required positive health behaviour.

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