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The Benefits and Risks of Sharing Health Information with Others

Nathan Walter, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Communication Studies
Center for Communication and Health

School of Communication
Northwestern University

Traditionally, health-related models have focused mainly on individuals as a way to predict behavior change. In recent decades, however, there is a growing realization that a host of social factors can influence and shape health-related attitudes and behavior. In particular, scholars emphasize the role played by social networks (e.g., families, friendships, and communities) in facilitating or attenuating risky behavior. Yet despite notable efforts to link cultural and social factors explicitly to behavioral outcomes, there remains a considerable amount of ambiguity regarding the role of social network dynamics in legitimizing or challenging behavior. By analyzing the experience of Latinas with obesity, hypertension, and cervical cancer detection, we try to bridge these gaps. The studies’ findings suggest that health campaigns could be futile if they do not consider ways to diversify individuals’ health-related social networks and information resources.

Presentation date: October 17, 2018.