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Health Communication

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Health Communication

Health Communication in the OU Department of Communication has three major areas of research as our strength: (a) health communication in interpersonal contexts, (b) health promotion and campaigns, and (c) organizational and health communication. Health communication in interpersonal contexts examines how individuals manage their illness events effectively and appropriately through social interactions. Faculty members in this area of research have examined how health literacy, communicative competence, and social support play a critical role in individuals’ illness management with their support network, including health care providers, family members, and supportive others.

The area of health promotion and campaign adopts a perspective similar to that of public health researchers in exploring best practices in modifying individuals’ health behaviors (e.g., risk aversion/management and smoking cessation) through health education and implementation of different campaign strategies. Faculty members in this area of research have explored the effectiveness of campaign messages (e.g., message features), factors influencing individuals’ evaluation and interpretation of campaign messages (e.g., psychological and emotional factors), and different message outcomes (e.g., message effects and campaign evaluation).

The area of organizational and health communication focuses on research such as community organizing and health, the emotion experiences of health professionals, healthcare ethics (e.g., informed consent, privacy), healthcare teams, managed care, physician assimilation, and health professionals’ coping with stress and burnout. Currently, faculty members’ research includes community organizing and health, healthcare ethics, and physician assimilation. Because the OU-Norman campus is 20 minutes away from the OU-Health Science Center campus at Oklahoma City and 2 hours away from the OU-Community Medicine campus at Tulsa, faculty members, physicians (including medical residents), and graduate students often collaborate on research projects across campuses. In addition, due to the strength in our intercultural communication program, many of our faculty members and students often conduct their studies in international settings, highlighting the culturally and socially constructed nature of health/illness management.

Typical Graduate Level Course Offerings

Comm 5263 Health Communication
Comm 5393: Risk and Crisis Communication
Comm 5453: Social influence
Comm 5553 Persuasive Communication Campaigns
Comm 6423 Communication in Health Organizations
Comm 6023 Communication Research Task Groups
Comm 6960 Directed Readings

Current Faculty with Research and/or Teaching Interests

Recent Dissertations in Health Communication

Ma, Haijing (2021). “I felt completely turned off by the message”: The effects of controlling language, fear, and disgust appeals on responses to COVID-19 vaccination messages (Graduate Student Dissertation Grant Award, and H. Wayland Cummings Quantitative Dissertation Proposal Award, OU Department of Communication).

Recent Representative Faculty and Graduate Student Publications in Health Communication


Banas, J. A., Bessarabova, E., Penkauskas, M., & Talbert, N. (2023). Inoculating against anti-vaccination conspiracies. Health Communication, 1-9. Advance online publication.

Bessarabova, E., & Massey, Z. B. (2023). The effects of death awareness and reactance on texting-and-driving prevention. Risk Analysis.

Bessarabova, E., & Massey, Z. B. (2020)Testing terror management health model and integrating its predictions with the theory of psychological reactance, Communication Monographs87(1), 25-46, doi:10.1080/03637751.2019.1626992

Bessarabova, E., Banas, J. A., & Bernard, D. R. (2020). Emotional appeals in message design. In D. O’Hair & M. J. O’Hair (Eds.), Handbook of applied communication research. Sage.

Guan, M., Li, Y., Scoles, J. D., & Zhu, Y. (2023). COVID-19 message fatigue: How does it predict behavioral intentions and what types of information are people tired of hearing about? Health Communication, 38(8), 1631-1640.

Guan, M., Jennings, F. J., Villanueva, I. I., & Jackson, D. B. (2022). Delineating antecedents and outcomes of information seeking upon exposure to an environmental video opposing single-use plastics. Environmental Communication. Advance online publication.

Guan, M., & So, J. (2022). Social identity theory. In E. Ho, C. Bylund, & J. van Weert (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Health Communication. Wiley.

Guan, M., Han, J. Y., Shah, D. V., Gustafson, D. H. (2021). Exploring the role of social support in promoting patient participation in health care among women with breast cancer. Health Communication, 36(13), 1581-1589.

Guan, M., & So, J. (2020). Tailoring temporal message frames to individuals’ time orientation strengthens the relationship between risk perception and behavioral intention. Journal of Health Communication, 25(12), 971–981.

Kim, N, Leshner, G. M., & Miller C. H. (2022). Native Americans’ responses to obesity attributions and message sources in an obesity prevention campaign. Journal of Health Communication, published online,

Li, Y., Guan, M., Hammond, P., & Berrey, L. E. (2021). Communicating COVID-19 information on TikTok: A content analysis of TikTok videos from official accounts featured in the COVID-19 information hub. Health Education Research, 36(3), 261-271.

Lookadoo, K., Hubbard, C., Nisbett, G., & Wong, N. (2021). We’re all in this together: Celebrity influencer disclosures about COVID-19. Atlantic Journal of Communication. Advance online publication.

Lookadoo, K. L., & Wong, N. C. H. (2020). Searching for a silver lining: Mediated intergroup contact and mental health perceptions. Studies in Media and Communication, 8(2), 1-13. doi:10.11114/smc.v8i2.xx.

Ma, H. & Miller, C. H. (2021). The effects of agency assignment and reference point on responses to COVID-19 messages, Health Communication, 36(1), 59-73,

Ma, H., & Miller, C. H. (2020). Trapped in a double bind: Chinese overseas student anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Communication. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1775439


Ma, H., & Miller, C. H. (2022). Threat type moderates agency assignment: A partial matching effect. Health Communication. Published online.


Ma, H., & Miller, C. H. (2022). “I felt completely turned off by the message”: The effects of controlling language, fear, and disgust appeals on responses to COVID-19 vaccination messages. Journal of Health Communication.


Ma, H., Miller, C., & Wong, N. (2020). Don’t let the tornado get you!: The effects of agency assignment and self-construal on responses to tornado preparedness messages. Health Communication. Advance online publication.

Miller, C. H., & Ma, H. (2021). How existential anxiety shapes communication in coping with the coronavirus pandemic: A terror management theory perspective. In H. D. O’Hair and M. J. O’Hair (Eds.), Communication Science in Times of Crisis (pp. 54-80). Wiley.

Miller, C. H., Massey, Z. B., & Ma, H. Psychological reactance and persuasive message design. (2020) In H. D. O’Hair & M. J. O’Hair (Eds.), Handbook of applied communication research. NY: Wiley. DOI: 10.1002/9781119399926.ch27

Olufowote, J. O. (2021). Taking culture and context seriously: Advancing health communication research on HIV/AIDS prevention in Tanzania with the PEN-3 cultural model. Howard Journal of Communications, 32(4), 394-412.

Olufowote, J. O., Adebayo, C. T., Livingston, D. J., & Wilson, K. K. (2022). An alternative entry point into health communication research: Introspections on learning, applying, and future uses of PEN-3. In C. O. Airhihenbuwa & J. Iwelunmor (Eds.), Health, culture, and place: From the tree to the forest (pp. 105-120). U-RISE, LLC.

Olufowote, J. O., & Livingston, D. J. (2021). The excluded voices from Africa’s Sahel: Alternative meanings of health in narratives of resistance to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in northern Nigeria. Health Communication. Advance online publication.


Richards, A. S., Bessarabova, E., Banas, J. A., & Bernard, D. R. (2022). Reducing psychological reactance to health promotion messages: Comparing preemptive and postscript mitigation strategies. Health Communication, 37 (3), 366-374,

Richards, A. S., Bessarabova, E., Banas, J. A., & Larsen, M. (2021). Freedom-prompting reactance mitigation strategies function differently across levels of trait reactance. Communication Quarterly Communication Quarterly, 69, 238-25.

So, J., Ahn, J., & Guan, M. (2022). Beyond depth and breadth: Taking “types” of health information sought into consideration with cluster analysis. Journal of Health Communication, 27(1), 27–36.

Terui, S., Huang. J., Goldsmith, J., Blackard, D., Yang, Y., & Miller, C. H. (2020). Promoting transformative community change for equitable health: Peer education and intervention for pre-exposure HIV prophylaxis. Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives.

Turner, M. M., Richards, A. S., Bessarabova, E., & Magid, Y. (2020). The effects of anger appeals on systematic processing and intentions: The moderating role of efficacy. Communication Reports, 33, 14-26, doi:10.1080/08934215.2019.1682175

Zhao, X., Guan, M., Liang, X. (2022). The impact of social media use on online collective action during China’s COVID-19 pandemic mitigation: A social identity model of collective action (SIMCA) perspective. International Journal of Communication, 16, 85-106.

Zhu, Y., Guan, M., & Donovan, E. (2020). Elaborating cancer opinion leaders’ communication behaviors within online health communities: Network and content analyses. Social Media + Society, 6(2), 1–13.

Zhuang, J., & Guan, M. (2022). Modeling the mediating and moderating roles of risk perceptions, efficacy, desired uncertainty, and worry in information seeking-cancer screening relationship using HINTS 2017 data. Health Communication, 37(7), 897-908.

Recent Funding in Health Communication

Claude Miller; Co-PI, “Peer Training and Intervention for Pre-exposure HIV Prophylaxis,” Waterhouse Family Institute ($10,000), 2018-2020 – Funded

Faculty Achievements