Health Communication (M.A.)

Program Overview

Rider’s M.A. in Health Communication (MAHC) focuses on the application of communication skills within the health context. Health communication is one of the areas of communication that is growing exponentially and is projected to experience continued growth. Communication contributes to vital health outcomes by directing positive health behaviors. Interventions, strategies, and programs to change health behaviors are communicative acts and are the primary tools used in health communication. The program introduces students to best practices in communication, and engages them in real-life current issues and scenarios faced by professionals on the job. Students in the program learn to better understand and leverage communication strategies to achieve organizational goals.

Curriculum Overview

The MAHC is a fully online, 33-credit program designed to prepare students for careers in the fast-paced, expanding field of health. Students learn to identify and explain current issues in health communication; use theory and research methodology to examine and explain trends and phenomena in health; interpret the verbal and nonverbal communication practices of individuals, healthcare providers, and organizations in order to reform conversations about health; explain complex medical terminology, statistics, and research findings in simplified language; compose written materials and develop health communication campaigns for general audiences, healthcare professionals, medical organizations, and advocacy groups; understand the far-reaching, multi-layered impact that culture has on health communication and health outcomes; and develop a variety of health communication campaigns that inform, educate, promote, or call for action.

Degrees Offered

  • M.A. in Health Communication

Contact

Allison Weidhaas, Ph.D.
Director
Fine Arts 225
609-895-5106
aweidhaas@rider.edu

Program Website:  Health Communication
Associated Department:  Department of Communication and Journalism

Health Communication (M.A.) Program Requirements 

(33 Credits)

COMM 500Communication Processes in Health3
COMM 501Medical Concepts and Health Writing3
COMM 505Health Communication Theory3
COMM 507Business Presentation Strategies3
COMM 525Visual Communication3
COMM 531Legal/Ethical Issues for Professional Communication3
COMM 545Information Gathering & Analysis3
COMM 551Cultural Conceptions of Health and Illness3
COMM 558Health Communication Campaigns3
COMM 559Communicating Crises in Health3
COMM 600Capstone: Implementing a Health Communication Campaign3
Total Credits33

Accelerated Program

Overview

The 4+1 Masters in Health Communication is designed for students who wish to combine undergraduate study in a major leading to a Bachelor’s degree with graduate study leading to a Master of Arts in Health Communication.  The Master of Arts in Health Communication is a fully online program.

The admission process for this program ensures that only capable students are enrolled.  Freshman and sophomore students are encouraged to seek advice about the program from their advisor and the program director. During the junior year, the student will formally apply to the MAHC program through the Graduate Admissions Office.  The process involves the following:

  • A completed application form for admission to the Health Communication program, accompanied by a $50 nonrefundable application fee;
  • Receipt of official transcripts from every college or university attended (including Rider University);
  • A statement of objectives prepared by the student that presents the student’s reasons for wanting to enter the Health Communication program;
  • Two letters of recommendation, at least one from a college professor

Students accepted into the Health Communication program at the end of their junior year will complete one graduate level elective course during each semester of their senior year. 

Students will be awarded the B.A. or B.S. degree when they complete the requirements for that degree.  The M.A. will be awarded upon completion of the Health Communication requirements.

Academic Plan of Study

The Four-Plus-One MAHC is designed to begin in the senior year of undergraduate study and be completed in one additional year by the student who plans to attend the program on a full-time basis.  The following educational plan is provided as a sample only.  Each student, with the guidance from the MABC/MAHC director, will develop a personalized educational plan.

Plan of Study Grid
Year 1
Fall SemesterCredits
Senior Year  
COMM 500 Communication Processes in Health 3
 Semester Credit Hours3
Spring Semester
COMM 501 Medical Concepts and Health Writing 3
 Semester Credit Hours3
Summer Semester
Summer I  
COMM 505 Health Communication Theory 3
COMM 507 Business Presentation Strategies 3
Summer II  
COMM 525 Visual Communication 3
COMM 551 Cultural Conceptions of Health and Illness 3
 Semester Credit Hours12
Year 2
Fall Semester
Graduate Year  
COMM 545 Information Gathering & Analysis 3
COMM 558 Health Communication Campaigns 3
COMM 559 Communicating Crises in Health 3
 Semester Credit Hours9
Spring Semester
COMM 531 Legal/Ethical Issues for Professional Communication 3
COMM 600 Capstone: Implementing a Health Communication Campaign 3
 Semester Credit Hours6
 Total Credit Hours for Graduation33

Courses and Descriptions

COMM 500 Communication Processes in Health 3 Credits

Interpersonal and nonverbal communication are the two areas of general communication studies that health communication draws from most heavily. These concepts affect relationships in healthcare, the ability to understand and process medical information, the efficacy of messages in relation to nonverbal indicators, and how bad news, another major concept in health communication, is received. This class will provide a comprehensive understanding of these concepts, how they are utilized in the field of health communication, and the ways in which the two areas intersect, all in the broader context of understanding health communication as a discipline.

COMM 501 Medical Concepts and Health Writing 3 Credits

Improving the way that health is communicated requires the ability to understand health information at the initial – and often complex – level. In particular, health communication aims to provide information to underserved populations, who may suffer from lack of education and poor health literacy. This class will provide students with a basic understanding of medical terminology and the ability to comprehend and explain scientific literature. Students will develop the skills needed to translate medical information for a wide range of audiences. Students will also be required to apply these concepts through the creation of multiple types of health writing assignments.

COMM 505 Health Communication Theory 3 Credits

Health communication is driven by a set of principles that guide the conceptualization, design, and implementation of new health guidelines and interventions. The ultimate goal of health communication is to increase health and satisfaction by encouraging healthier behaviors, medical compliance, and more efficient communication of medical information. This class is designed to give an overview of the major fields of study in health communication through examination of the major theoretical perspectives therein. Topics include the different areas of study in which health communication theories are based, how theory is used to support the initial design of research studies and interventions, and the situations in which the use of more than one theoretical approach is warranted.

COMM 507 Business Presentation Strategies 3 Credits

Develops the ability to create purposeful presentations with targeted messages relating to audience needs. Students will gain competency in a number of areas including: messaging, writing for the visual media, using current visual presentation tools, delivering an impactful presentation and taking advantage of social media channels. They will develop the knowledge and skills to influence and inspire internal and external constituencies, a key part of communication practitioners’ jobs, especially those in managerial/senior staff roles.

COMM 525 Visual Communication 3 Credits

This course introduces students to the theory and practice of visual communication design. Students will learn how to critique, design, and edit visual communications with specific audiences in mind. Topics include the elements and principles of design, color theory, visual perception theories, typography, symbols, brand identity, logos, propaganda, and information design in both current and historical contexts. Readings and viewings of relevant films are a required component of the course. Assignments will afford students opportunities to apply current visual communication software to produce visual communications for various professional environments, but command of such software is neither required nor expected.

COMM 531 Legal/Ethical Issues for Professional Communication 3 Credits

Provides students with the knowledge to understand and apply ethical guidelines and current laws and regulations relative to workplace communication, as well as the legal limits impacting professional communications. This knowledge is particularly important for those in or aspiring to managerial/senior staff roles.

COMM 545 Information Gathering & Analysis 3 Credits

Develops the knowledge and skills to use various research methods and analysis techniques to provide critical information for, and assist with, business decisions. It will cover developing research tools, gathering and verifying information, analyzing, and reporting results. These skills are particularly important for those in or aspiring to managerial/senior staff roles.

COMM 551 Cultural Conceptions of Health and Illness 3 Credits

Culture affects every relationship dynamic, the way nonverbal communication is interpreted, how audiences are selected for health campaigns, the ability and willingness to use technology, and the way bad news is broken to individuals and families. In health communication, culture comprises both the general conceptions of what culture is – the characteristics of a particular social, ethnic, or age group – as well as other factors. This class will examine the specific variables of culture in this setting, how the variables are both unique and interconnected, and the wide-reaching impact culture has in health. The first half of the course explores the variables that culture includes. The latter part of the course takes these variables and demonstrates the roles they play in real-world health communication settings.

COMM 558 Health Communication Campaigns 3 Credits

Campaigns are the primary tool used in health communication to disseminate messages and effect change. Campaigns can provide information on a specific issue or to a specific community, encourage preventative health behaviors, demonstrate behaviors (such as performing self-skin exams for skin cancer or the proper way to follow medication instructions), put forward suggestions for a healthy lifestyle, raise awareness, or offer support. At times, multiple messages may be present in one campaign. This class will examine the different types of health campaigns and the impact a health communication campaign can have. Students will learn how to analyze a health campaign through its full cycle. The class will also serve as a foundation for the capstone class of the Master’s in Health Communication program.

COMM 559 Communicating Crises in Health 3 Credits

In the health setting, multiple events can be considered a crisis: the outbreak of a disease, contamination of food, a natural disaster, and more. The response to a crisis can have a significant, long-lasting impact on the organization’s reputation. The development of a crisis plan, which sets forth guidelines for an organization’s response to a crisis and involves multiple steps, can be completed before any events occur and can significantly affect the way an organization handles a crisis. This class explores the types of crises that occur in health communication, the factors involved in a crisis, the development of a crisis plan, and the effects of a crisis on an organization.

COMM 600 Capstone: Implementing a Health Communication Campaign 3 Credits

The ability to implement, evaluate, revise and successfully launch a campaign is a critical skill for all individuals who work in health communication. Campaigns are the primary tool used by health communicators to initiate change in a community, although their implementation will not always be a fluid, one-step process. This class will require students to select a local health campaign and evaluate the campaign from start to finish. Students will complete the Master’s program in Health Communication with a complete proposal for a health communication campaign and the skills needed to analyze an existing campaign from beginning to end.