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Successful teaching partnership between Public Health Science and the Department of Business Communication

Both the director of studies and the students on the Master’s Degree Programme in Public Health Science are excited about the course on health communication, which is offered by lecturers from the research group on knowledge communication at the School of Business and Social Sciences.

What is the risk of contracting HIV? What is HIV really, and how is the disease transmitted? These were some of the messages that the Master’s students on the Public Health Science programme were asked to communicate to a target group of their choice to conclude the course on health communication.

- It is clear that when communicating about health and diseases to people with no previous knowledge of the issues, you have to bear in mind that your audience knows less than you. But the course on health communication actually gave me specific tools and taught me how I can convey information in the right way to specific target groups, explains Master’s student Marie-Louise Kirchoff Sørensen. Her fellow student Signe Timm elaborates:

- To know about communication strategies is crucial when you’re working with public health issues. The course was focused on applying strategies in practice, which was different from what we’re used to, but it was good. For my exam paper I did a brochure, and I had to consider my choice of images, forms of appeal and presentation of the sender, and it was a very instructive experience; something I will be able to use in my work in the future, emphasises Signe Timm.

Students and directors of studies are excited
The course focuses on various forms and theories of communication that are relevant for work in the healthcare sector; for instance, how can we motivate people to make significant life changes, how do we communicate about risks and, more generally, how do we communicate to people with no knowledge of health science? The course was developed by a group of lecturers from the Department of Business Communication, who took charge right from the start.

- The idea of involving lecturers from ‘the outside’ came from Niels Trolle Andersen, the former director of studies and current chairman of the board of studies, who thought it made the most sense for the students to be taught by people with the right form of communication expertise. When he contacted the people at the Department of Business Communication he was surprised at how welcoming they were of the initiative. They were really proactive and immediately began shaping the course module. They took responsibility for the development of the course based on the description of objectives. It resulted in a very applicable and exciting course, and the lecturers quickly figured out the level of our students’ communication skills and where they needed to improve their skills. It has been an excellent collaborative effort, which is also reflected in the student evaluations, says director of studies Mette Vinther Larsen.

The lecturers involved in the course on health communication at Public Health Science are Professor Karen Korning Zethsen (course coordinator), Associate Professor Morten Pilegaard, Assistant Professor Antoinette Mary Fage-Butler and Assistant Professor Matilde Nisbeth Jensen.

The course is a mandatory element on the Master’s Degree Programme in Public Health Science in the course module on health pedagogics and communication. The course will be repeated in the autumn of 2014. Moreover, the course is supplemented with the seminar "Målgrupper, genrer & medier – målrettet sundhedskommunikation" (Target groups, genre & media – targeted health communication).