The Politics of Health Communications

Feb 7, 2024

2 min

Christopher A. Cooper


We learned a lot from the pandemic - and one of the valuable lessons was that science and public health policy can become energized and political.


Effective communications can motivate the masses to do the 'right' things and just as equally lead them astray.


Recently, WCU's Christopher Cooper penned a piece for the North Carolina Medical Journal on this topic.  


Here's an excerpt from his article:


The most important scarce resources in politics are time and attention. Sure, money matters, but savvy poli­ticians can always work their networks to seed, find, or harvest more money. No amount of political savvy or con­nections can generate more time or attention.

Nowhere is this problem more prevalent than in the area of health policy. Health policy is often highly techni­cal, shrouded in verbiage that is not accessible to the aver­age voter or legislator, and can change rapidly. Combine these problems with the reality that health policy is also extremely important and is the subject of massive lobby­ing efforts, and it becomes clear that the job of commu­nicating health policy effectively is extremely challenging.

The challenge is even greater in an era of low trust. Trust acts as a lubricant for complicated information. In the absence of trust, each interaction with information has more friction and is more difficult to complete. While trust in institutions has been waning since the early 1970s, the COVID-19 pandemic and related political fallout have reduced trust to levels that border on anemic.1

Despite the challenges, scholars and practitioners must find a way forward, as health communication is increasingly important to any society, but particularly a democratic republic such as ours where public opinion can still influence public policy. From this vantage point, some citizens’ disbelief that face masks can improve pub­lic health, for example, is not simply a curiosity; it is neces­sary to understand and challenge these attitudes to create a better society. Similarly, anti-vaccination sentiment is more powerful in a democratic republic because it will result in politicians who are less willing to pass policies that encourage vaccinations. Effective health communica­tion, therefore, is as critical to public health outcomes as the knowledge upon which it relies.


The rest of the article is attached below and is a must read for anyone interested in the intersection of politics and  public health.



If you're a journalist or reporter looking to know more about this interesting topic - then let us help.


Christopher A. Cooper is the Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor and director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University. He is also an expert in the areas of political behavior and behavioral public administration.


Christopher is available to speak with media - simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.

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Christopher A. Cooper

Christopher A. Cooper

Madison Distinguished Professor of Political Science & Public Affairs and Director of the Haire Institute for Public Policy

Christopher A. Cooper's research is on N.C. politics, southern politics, political behavior and behavioral public administration.

Election AdministrationPublic AdministrationSouthern PoliticsAmerican PoliticsParties, Campaigns and Elections

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