Gary L. Kreps
University Distinguished Professor of Communication
George Mason University
My active interdisciplinary health communication research program examines how evidence-based and culturally-sensitive community participative communication interventions, utilizing a range of different media and message strategies, can reduce health disparities, particularly for immigrant, ethnic, and minority populations, as well as to promote global health. My work focuses on using rigorously-collected and revealing data using multiple methods (both quantitative and qualitative data) to guide strategic dissemination of relevant health information to key audiences of consumers, caregivers, and providers to guide informed health decisions across the continuum of care. I typically work with vulnerable populations, including people with serious socioeconomic challenges, with low levels of health literacy, who are disenfranchised minority group members, immigrants, and who confront serious, debilitating, and stigmatized health conditions. The goal of my research program is to use data to develop evidence-based communication interventions, programs, practices, and policies that empower at-risk populations to make informed choices that lead to improved health outcomes.
Much of my research has focused on serious challenges of cancer prevention and control, but I also study the information needs of those confronting HIV/AIDS (and other infectious diseases), cardiac disease, chronic health challenges, health risks, and health crises. I examine strategies to promote early detection of serious health problems, adoption of health promoting behaviors, adherence with treatment regimens, provision of social support, successful survivorship, and promotion of wellness. I work at multiple societal levels, regionally (i.e., the Fairfax County Health Literacy Initiative community-based health collaborative), nationally (i.e., the Health Information National Trends Survey, HINTS), and internationally (i.e., the HINTS-China research program and the Global Advocacy Leadership Academy, GALA, program).
The results of my research have been widely reported in numerous books, articles, and monographs (more than 350 scientific publications). My research has been supported by many federal agencies, foundations, international organizations, and foreign governments (around $36 million in external funding). I also introduced significant health communication research funding opportunities when I served as the founding Chief of the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute (more than $100 million in new health communication funding initiatives). My published work is influential (more than 5,500 citations to my publications according to Google Scholar) and theories I have introduced concerning communication and health outcomes (such as the Relational Health Communication Competence Model) have been supported, extended, and applied in a number of empirical studies. My health informatics research has facilitated development, refinement, and adoption of important health communication programs and technologies to disseminate health information, guide informed health decision making, promote coordination of care, and provide social support. Four of my current research projects involve: 1) providing evidence-based culturally sensitive cancer information to Korean American immigrants though ethnic media and social networks; 2) enhancing patient discharge planning in a large military hospital with smart interactive health information systems; 3) introducing a nationally representative repeated measure (every other year) survey of consumer health information needs in China to guide targeted health promotion efforts, and 4) promoting improved end-of-life discussions between cardiologists and at-risk advanced disease cardiac care patients and their families.
keywords to describe your research
health information, dissemination, reduction of health disparities, interactive information systems, community-participative research, interventions, research, multi-methodological research
work in relation to symposium keywords
My work focuses on dissemination of relevant health information to promote collaborative and informed health decision making to reduce health disparities, enhance health promotion, and increase quality of care.
My work also utilizes community participative, multi-methodological, intervention research methods to gather robust and revealing data that can lead to long-term sustainable improvements in health promotion and health care outcomes.
• How do you explain/define what you do to medical personnel and/or other stakeholders in the research process or to the public?
I explain that I conduct research and develop programs that help to improve the quality of communication in the delivery of care and the promotion of health. I explain that communication is the essential process that enables the delivery of care and the promotion of health. In essence, to be effective, health care providers need to be effective health care communicators. Similarly, consumers of health care depend on effective communication to gather relevant health information to make good decisions, and to promote coordination with key individuals (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, caregivers, administrators, etc.) to access the best care.
• What other keywords would you add to the list above (connections, dissemination, ethics, methods, and theory) and why? (no more than three additions)
Increasing understanding, of relevant health information, as well as empathy, and coordination between participants in the health system by overcoming differences in health literacy, cultural backgrounds, and power.
• What are some of the most pressing questions in health and healthcare that health communication/medical rhetoric scholars can help answer?
Some of the most pressing questions that health communication (rhetoric) scholars can help answer include:
1. What are the best ways to disseminate relevant health information to key audiences that need such information to make good health decisions?
2. What are the best communication strategies for influencing and sustaining key health behaviors to improve health outcomes?
3. How can communication be used to promote coordination and cooperation between interdependent participants within the health system (consumers, providers, caregivers, health administrators, policy makers, etc.)?
4. How can communication programs, practices, and policies be developed and implemented to reduce health disparities, improve coordination of care, inform health decision making, enhance access to and quality of care, promote disease prevention and health promotion, reduce pain and suffering, and achieve desired health outcomes?