Health Communication Matters! Webinar Series

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The Health Communication Matters! Webinar Series helps participants in all walks of public health apply techniques to communicate effectively with consumers, health professionals, disenfranchised communities, and public health peers. It is presented by the Center for Public Health Practice & Leadership (CPHPL) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) Health Communication Working Group. Have questions about the series? Please email Lisa Peterson, Program Manager, Center for Public Health Practice & Leadership, at


  • Center for Public Health Practice & Leadership, UC Berkeley School of Public Health
  • American Public Health Association
  • APHA Health Communication Working Group
  • APHA Community Health Planning and Policy Development
  • California Public Health Association-North

Latest Event

The Opioid Crisis: Innovative Health Communication Strategies

Wednesday, August 30 

10am-11:30am PST / 1pm – 2:30pm EST 


Thank you for joining us for the latest event in the Health Communication Matters Webinar Series as we showcased three case studies of innovative health communication strategies being deployed to address the opioid crisis. First, we heard from Mark O’Brien, Director of Opioid Overdose Prevention and Treatment at the Baltimore City Health Department. Baltimore City is among the most severely impacted cities in the current national epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose. A city of 620,000 residents, Baltimore City last year suffered 694 overdose deaths, nearly two per day. The city’s three-pronged strategy for responding to this public health emergency has been recognized as a national model. Webinar attendees learned about the scale of the epidemic in Baltimore City and how the city’s public health authorities are responding and communicating about the epidemic to save lives.

Next, Jesse Yedinak, project director with the Centers for Epidemiology and Environmental Health at Brown University School of Public Health highlighted the development of Rhode Island’s innovative website,, including identifying key audiences, testing messages with target populations, and using visual options to enhance informing. Their strategies have been recognized by CDC, the National Governors Association and others.

In the final presentation, we heard from Armine Kourouyan, MPH, Project Manager at Hollywood, Health & Society, USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. This presentation covered the functions of Hollywood, Health & Society, a program of the USC Norman Lear Center and explore the ways that entertainment education impacts millions of viewers around the world.

Watch the webinar and download the slides!

After this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Learn how to focus your message and include a call to action
  • Use standardized tools and visual cues to increase the understanding of your message
  • Test for understanding with your audience using online surveys and interviews
  • Understand the definition of entertainment education.
  • Recognize how entertainment affects viewers’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior around health issues.
  • Identify opioids/substance abuse storylines on television and the impact they have on the viewing audience.


Jesse Yedinak, MPA
Project Director
Centers for Epidemiology and Environmental Health
Brown University School of Public Health

Armine Kourouyan, MPH
Project Manager | Hollywood, Health & Society
USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center

Mark L. O’Brien, JD
Director of Opioid Overdose Prevention and Treatment
Baltimore City Health Department


Upcoming Events

Stay tuned for upcoming events in the Series!

Past Events

Raising Community Voices: The Power of Storytelling in Public Health

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Join us for the next event in the Health Communication Matters Webinar Series during National Public Health Week to learn how to use storytelling to advance public health goals for the communities you serve. This webinar will have presentations from two creative professionals. First, Andrea Spagat, West Coast Regional Director of the StoryCenter will share tips on how to create effective stories for education or advocacy purposes. Andrea will share her experience with participatory story composition, the mechanics of video filming and editing, and some strategies for creating compelling public health stories to support your cause.  Elizabeth Bayne is the Founder of Chocolate Milk: The Documentary Series, a non-profit collection of videos aimed at promoting breastfeeding in the African American community through the power of personal narrative. Elizabeth will talk about her project, how she created the videos, as well as her strategies for social marketing and distribution of video content. 

Watch the webinar and download the slides and resources!

After this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Identify a progression of outcome for digital storytelling projects
  • Understand digital storytelling as a form of participatory media production
  • Describe a rationale for applying an ethical framework to participatory media production
  • Learn how to use ethnography to inform outreach 
  • Understand how personal narrative can be used to increase issue engagement


Elizabeth Bayne, MPH, MFA
Producer, director and public health communications strategist, GrayBayne Film/Media

Andrea Spagat
Western Region Director, StoryCenter

Reframing Violence through a Public Health Lens: How We See, Communicate, and Treat it

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

12 p.m.–1:30 p.m. PT/3 p.m.–4:30 p.m. ET

Join us in the next event in the Health Communications Matters Webinar Series, as experts in the field discuss their approaches to communicating gun violence. In the first presentation, Matan Zeimer from Cure Violence will share the state of the health approach to violence, the centerpiece of a 2015 meeting of local and national health leaders. Since that meeting, over 100 organizations, including over 30 health departments, have signed on to the Movement towards Violence as a Health Issue. The group has 3 strategies: change the perception away from “bad people, bad places” to violence being a preventable health issue; design a multi-sector framework that integrates evidence-informed health approaches; and increase policies that support and sustain the health approach to violence. Matan will present the latest findings of national work and suggest talking points for integrating the health approach to violence prevention in local efforts.

Next, Michael Bakal from Berkeley Media Studies Group will highlight how much of the public discourse about violence is shaped by news coverage that focuses on isolated episodes of crime rather than underlying causes and effective solutions. To communicate a public health approach, advocates must become adept at framing violence as a preventable problem that can be addressed at the community as well as individual level. Michael will present findings from BMSG’s recent analysis of news coverage of violence, and will introduce strategies to help advocates and practitioners broaden the conversation about violence to highlight prevention. 

In the final presentation, you’ll hear from Anne Marks from Youth ALIVE! in Oakland, as she discusses how hospital-based violence intervention is a model program for health care systems to provide not just treatment but also effective injury prevention services to communities that are suffering from violence. Anne will describe a model project that integrates health care personnel as part of violence prevention and explain how communities have taken on this public health approach to violence, and offering messaging points to advocates who want to bring this model to their own community.

Watch the webinar and download the slides and resources.

After this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Identify strategies to communicate why violence is a health issue and how the health sector can use the health approach to prevent violence
  • Understand the role of news coverage in shaping public understandings of violence
  • Identify common news frames that help or hinder efforts to highlight prevention
  • Develop strategies for reframing violence at the community level  
  • Define the model of hospital-based violence intervention
  • Explain the role of the health care system in intervening in violence
  • Present messaging to health care systems about how and why to get involved in violence intervention


Matan Zeimer
Associate Director of Health Policy, Cure Violence

Michael Bakal
Strategic Communications Specialist, Berkeley Media Studies Group

Anne Marks
Executive Director, Youth ALIVE!

From Fotonovela to Beyond Webnovela: 
The Power of Storytelling for Health Promotion

From Fotonovela to Beyond Webnovela: The Power of Storytelling for Health Promotion

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Our expert presenters discussed story-based edutainment for the Latino community from the traditional paper booklet fotonovela to something completely different: a TV series for teens. Mel Baron from USC School of Pharmacy described USC's dynasty in developing traditional fotonovelas on public health topics from diabetes to dementia. He described how they produce, test, and distribute their graphic story booklets and DVDs. Next, Helen Wang from the University at Buffalo shared findings from the first-ever digital series with an all-Latino cast. "East Los High" is a popular series on Hulu about students in a fictional high school in East Los Angeles. Storylines incorporate messages on sexual and reproductive health which are reinforced by social media. The show has been viewed in all 50 states and in over 100 countries, and was one of Hulu's top 10 shows when it debuted. 

Due to technical issues, the recording for this event didn't work properly, but we have some awesome resources and slides from our organizers and speakers—enjoy!

After this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Describe at least two steps to help produce a successful fotonovela.
  • Describe the key factors that contributed to the success of a digital TV series.

  • List at least two measures for assessing a digital series as a public health communication intervention.

Mel Baron PharmD, MPA
Professor of Clinical Pharmacy
School of Pharmacy
University of Southern California

Hua (Helen) Wang PhD
Assistant Professor of Communication
University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Erin Brigham MPH
Research Lead

What's Your Peer Crowd? Identifying Your Audience and Health Messages That Resonate

What's Your Peer Crowd? Identifying Your Audience and Health Messages That Resonate graphic

Thursday, July 7, 2016

In today’s cluttered media environment, developing health messages that reach and resonate with adolescents can be challenging. This webinar introduces the concept of adolescent peer crowds—that is, collectives or subcultures with shared norms, values, styles, and preferences.  Are the teens you’re trying to reach Skaters or Preppies? Are they Jocks or Metalheads . . . or maybe a little of both? This webinar will help you figure it out and, using the FDA’s Fresh Empire tobacco education campaign as an example, will teach you how this piece of information can help you better design and disseminate your messages.

Watch the webinar and download the slides and resources.

After this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Explain what peer crowds are and why they are relevant for health communication. 

  • Describe different approaches for assessing the peer crowd identities of their target audience. 

  • Explain how FDA’s Fresh Empire campaign used the concept of peer crowds to inform message design and dissemination. 

  • Identify ways that peer crowds could inform the design and dissemination of your health messages.

Tesfa Alexander, PhD
Director of Research and Evaluation
Office of Health Communication and Education
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products 

Matthew Walker, DrPH
Health Scientist
Office of Health Communication and Education
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products 

Meghan Moran, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Health, Behavior & Society
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Shifting the Narrative: The Role of Social Media in Public Health Communications

Shifting the Narrative graphic

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Social media is an increasingly important communication channel. The vast majority of people use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, on a daily basis. These platforms transcend geographical boundaries to connect users around topics of interest. Conversations about vaccines and other public health topics are actively happening on social media platforms but the authoritative voices of public health officials and physicians are missing or hard to find.

This webinar in the Health Communication Matters Series features Jeanine Guidry, academic researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Renee DiResta, co-founder of Vaccinate California. In the first presentation, Jeanine leads us in an exploration of the role of social media in public health communications, and the use of visual social media in vaccine-themed discourse. Then, Renee takes us on a deeper dive into the discourse surrounding vaccines and show how despite being in the minority, anti-vax groups have been leveraging social media. Renee’s “opposition research” can help inform public health community experts to better understand the tactics of the opposition, and learn how they themselves can leverage these platforms to get pro-immunization messages to key audiences. 

Watch the webinar and download the slides and resources.

After this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the current state of social media and the role of visual social media in health communications. 

  • Analyze the use of visual social media in vaccine-themed discourse. 

  • List at least one strategy of anti-vax groups on social media channels. 

  • Describe ways that the opposition uses these channels for legislative advocacy.
  • Discuss strategies to engage the silent majority who vaccinate.

Jeanine Guidry, academic researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University
Renee DiResta, co-founder of Vaccinate California


The Challenge of Numeracy: Why Simply Providing Data is not Enough

25% graphic

Monday, December 14, 2015

This webinar presented on the challenges posed by the quantitative health information we share with health care consumers. It included a brief review of the prevalence and health impact of low numeracy skills in the United States identified by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), a large-scale assessment conducted in 2012. It then reviewed the impact of low numeracy on health care consumers' abilities to use health data in meaningful ways and discuss communication strategies to overcome these barriers. 

Watch the webinar and download the slides and resources.

Learning objectives:

  • Describe the numeracy skills of adults in the United States as measured by the PIAAC
  • Identify some of the ways that adults with low numeracy skills have difficulty using or interpreting health data
  • Identify evidence-based communication methods that improve understanding of numerical health data

Speakers: Cynthia Zafft RN, EdD, Principal Investigator, Literacy Information and Communication System; and Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher PhD, Associate Professor, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Research Associate Professor, University of Michigan Medical School

Moderator: Erin Brigham MPH, Research Lead, CareSource


Building a Public Health Literate Organization
Thursday, October 22, 2015

In celebration of National Health Literacy Month, two outstanding speakers addressed health literacy from a public health perspective. Preeminent expert Dr. Cynthia Baur shared tools and guidelines developed at the federal level by the CDC. This was followed with a presentation by Susan Bockrath, who shared a best-practice example of how one local health department in Nebraska has taken on the challenge of implementing health literacy organizational capacity by working with a variety of stakeholders in their community with a goal of achieving public health accreditation standards for health literacy. Webinar participants can expect to learn helpful take-aways to begin building their own public health literate organizations.

Watch the webinar and download the slides and resources

CDC’s Experience Designing and Implementing a Health Literacy Organizational Plan

Cynthia Baur PhD, Office of the Associate Director for Communication, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health literacy plan has 3 goals and many strategies, many of which focus on communicating clearly with the public. By law, CDC must provide plain language information to the public; we also have not one, but many, audiences. When the federal Plain Writing Act went into effect in 2011, the CDC Office of the Associate Director for Communication (OADC) faced the challenge of aligning diverse disciplinary perspectives and designing a program that reflects not only the Act’s requirements but also communication science and the realities of CDC’s culture and expertise. Dr. Cynthia Baur, CDC’s health literacy and clear communication lead, explains the agency’s approach and provides examples of how CDC addresses health literacy.

Learning objectives:

  • Describe at least 2 elements of CDC’s health literacy plan
  • Explain at least 2 strategies that public health organizations can use to address health literacy

Local Health Departments and Health Literacy Implementation: Nebraska’s Experience

Susan E. Bockrath MPH, CHES, Executive Director, Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors

Local health departments are on the cutting edge of health literacy education and practice in Nebraska. This presentation will describe how health departments, working through their State Associations of County and City Health Officials (SACCHO), have been building health literacy awareness and skills within their organizations and their communities. We will also describe some of the tools and processes local health departments are using to sustain health literate organizational capacity and address Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) standards.

Learning objectives:

  • List and locate 2 tools LHDs can use in efforts to formalize health literate organizational capacity and address PHAB standards
  • Describe how health literacy applies to Community Health Improvement Plan priorities

Speakers: Cynthia Baur PhD, Senior Advisor for Health Literacy and senior official for the Plain Writing Act, Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); Susan E. Bockrath MPH, CHES,
 Executive Director, Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors.

Moderator: Nancy Murphy, founder and chief consultant, CSR Communications


Design Matters! Integrating Design into Public Health Communications: Two Case Studies
Thursday, September 3, 2015

The role of design in health communication is crucial, and good design can make or break a health communication campaign. In the recent webinar in the Health Communications Matters Webinar Series, our speakers illustrated the role of good design in health communication and described how public health practitioners and researchers can work with designers and artists to enhance the appeal and effectiveness of their materials.

Es Tiempo Project
Es Tiempo Project

This webinar featured a few of the principal researchers, scientists, and designers behind the development of two public health campaigns in Los Angeles County. Project U, a program of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Health Education Programs HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit and STD prevention education among at-risk youth through peer-to-peer social networks, and Es Tiempo, a campaign raising awareness and support for prevention and treatment of cervical cancer that is an initiative of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Keck School of Medicine, the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, and Art Center College of Design. Both campaign communication concepts originated through a partnership with Designmatters, the award-winning social impact department at Art Center College of Design. Featuring experts in art, design, social change and public health, this webinar will show attendees the transformative effects that come from integrating design into health communication.

Watch the webinar and download the slides and resources.

After this session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify key principles that drive generative problem-solving through design methods as embodied in two successful case studies 
  • Explain the value of integrating design principles and techniques in public health campaigns
  • Describe how the design process can be integrated into campaign development, implementation and evaluation research

Speakers: Mariana Amatullo, PhD, co-founder and vice president, Designmatters Department, Art Center College of Design; Timothy Kordic, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Health Education Programs, HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit; and Dr. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, associate professor, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Moderator: Nancy Murphy, founder and chief consultant, CSR Communications


Storytelling as Health Communication: Fighting Obesity and Diabetes
Friday, April 10, 2015

As part of National Public Health Week, we presented a webinar as part of the Health Communication Matters Series highlighting the power of storytelling as a public health tool in preventing our most pervasive chronic conditions: diabetes and obesity. Our panel featured community workers and researchers doing work in vulnerable communities from two cutting-edge projects.

Natasha Huey and José Vadi shared the exciting work being done through The Bigger Picture campaign, a collaboration between Youth Speaks, and the University of California, San Francisco Center for Vulnerable PopulationsThe Bigger Picture, designed to combat the rising epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes, empowers youth to change the conversation about the disease, and works to change the social and environmental factors that have led to its spread. Learn how they've inspired young people to give voice to their stories using spoken word, and to motivate positive action.

Researchers Jayme Hannay and Rob Dudley, from the Salud America! Photovoice Project, worked with teens to empower them to tell their own stories, using cameras to document topics of urgent community concern (e.g., an abundance of vacant buildings) and develop an action agenda. Teens built on their photo stories by raising awareness in their community and engaging with policy makers, health professionals, and community leaders to create a healthier environment. Learn how teens' photos, and their reflections and stories about them, resulted in policy changes.

Watch the webinar, and download the slides and resources.

After this session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the steps involved in motivating youth to participate in storytelling projects
  • Acquire practical tools and examples that they can use to apply Photovoice in their own communities
  • Share tips for success in using stories or developing similar projects 
  • Use storytelling to help make the United States the healthiest nation by 2030

Speakers: Natasha Huey, American Graduate and Brave New Voices Associate, Youth SpeaksJosé Vadi, National Digital Programs Director, Youth Speaks;  Jayme Hannay, PhD, MPH, project director and Photovoice consultant for the Healthy Tomorrows for New Britain Teens obesity prevention and leadership development program, Community Health Center, Inc., co-pilot investigator for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Salud-America! Photovoice Project; and Rob Dudley, MD, MEd, FAAP, Community Health Center, Inc. of New Britain, CT, assistant clinical professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

Moderator: Nancy Murphy, founder and chief consultant, CSR Communications

Explore other past events in the Health Communications Matters Series here.