Socio-economic Disparities, Health Inequalities, and Differences in Communication Behaviors: Improving the Socio-cultural Fit of Cancer Prevention Efforts

TitleSocio-economic Disparities, Health Inequalities, and Differences in Communication Behaviors: Improving the Socio-cultural Fit of Cancer Prevention Efforts
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Baumann, E., J. Wiltfang, H. - J. Wenz, M. Koller, and K. Hertrampf
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Music, Drama, and Media, Germany
Section or WGHealth Communication and Change Working Group
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeCHAT1a
Slot Code (Keyword)CHAT1a
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleIdentifying Health Communication Effects: Message and Audience Attributes
Submission ID5665

Social contextual factors are known to be crucial determinants of health status and health behaviors. There is profound empirical evidence that especially socioeconomic inequalities are closely linked to health disparities. Regarding to cancer, the prevalence and risk status considerably differs between demographic and socioeconomic subgroups, too. Compared to people with a higher socioeconomic status (SES) those with low SES have lower levels of risk awareness and stronger fatalistic beliefs about cancer. They believe and participate in cancer preventive services to a less extent, and they engage more often in health-threatening behaviors. These relationships between health and risk attitudes and behaviors lead to severe problems of late symptom detection. In times of financial problems or economic crises, existing socioeconomic gaps in society are even growing. Due to this fatal constellation of cancer risk factors, addressing socioeconomically deprived risk groups should emerge as a major issue of public health efforts. Health communication research shows that health message effects are significantly moderated by social factors as well. In order to improve the sociocultural fit of cancer prevention, targeting strategies of communication efforts need to be improved. They have to be adjusted to the characteristics and informational needs of people at high-risk. Health communication efforts should refer to the individuals’ beliefs, motivations and needs on which the responsiveness to preventive information and services, information seeking behaviors, and information processing is based. Previously to an oral cancer prevention campaign in Northern Germany, a formative evaluation study was realized by qualitative research methods. Semi-structured interviews with 28 members of different risk groups were conducted. Using computer-assisted qualitative data analysis it was explored how cancer-related media and interpersonal information and communication patterns are associated to oral cancer-related cognitions and behaviors. These results were interpreted against the individuals’ demographic, socioeconomic, and health-related background. The formative evaluation reveals decisive reciprocal correlations between oral cancer-related cognitive patterns, the awareness for the topic and cancer-related communication and information behaviors of people at risk. The interviews give insight to the cognitive barriers of dealing with cancer-related topics and prevention efforts. A very negative image of cancer combined with rather restricted and distanced attitudes towards cancer are prevalent. In many cases this can be interpreted as a strategy of dealing with lacks of knowledge or with uncertainty. Four different cognitive patterns of distancing are identified which may help to differentiate and understand these dispositions in-depth: (1) optimistic bias, (2) fatalism, (3) hedonism, and (4) pragmatism. Based on these patterns promising message strategies for campaigning can be developed. Thereby, people with low SES should be reached more effectively than by global message tactics. Finally, some recommendations for suitable messages to address these people at risk are given.

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