Writing Health Communication: An Evidence-Based Guide


Charles Abraham & Marieke Kools

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    It was during work with Professor Herman Schaalma (1959–2009) at Maastricht University that Charles Abraham and Marieke Kools met and began to discuss this book. Herman spent his career working tirelessly to evaluate and improve health promotion practice. He encouraged work on this book and would have loved to have seen it in print. Sadly, he died before the project was completed. We dedicate this book to his memory.

    About the Editors

    Charles Abraham is Professor of Behaviour Change in the Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Exeter, UK. He conducts research into health promotion and sustainable energy use, and studies motivational and volitional processes that regulate action. His research focuses on developing and evaluating behaviour change interventions. Charles also provides training, consultancy and policy advice. Charles is a visiting professor at the Universities of Sussex, Nottingham and Maastricht, and a Research Associate at the Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention (CHIP) at the University of Connecticut. He has been co-editor of the journal Psychology and Health and was the founding chair of the British Psychological Society, Division of Health Psychology. Charles has also worked as a research consultant to the Department of Health in the UK. He was a member of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) group which developed the 2007 guidelines on Behaviour Change practice and was Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology inquiry into Behaviour Change in 2011.


    Marieke Kools is a behavioural scientist at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. With a background in experimental cognitive psychology (cognitive educational psychology as well as cognitive ergonomics), her research focuses on the usability of written information, with a specific interest in health education materials. Central in her applied experimental studies is the question of how layout and design characteristics can influence message comprehension and attention processes in readers. Marieke uses existing health education brochure materials to assess effects of textual as well as graphical design elements on how readers use and understand these materials. Marieke also provides training and consultancy regarding the design and evaluation of health promotion materials. She recently shifted her focus towards teaching and coaching medical doctors at the Institute of General Practitioners Education at Maastricht University.

    (email: Marieke.kools@maastrichtuniversity.nl)

    About the Contributors

    Johannes Brug is Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research at the VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Johannes's main research interests are in the development and evaluation of health education and health promotion interventions, with a special interest in behavioural nutrition and physical activity. His research covers studies on the determinants of health behaviours, small-scale experimentation with innovative health education interventions, and larger-scale field experiments in which the efficacy and external validity of health-promoting interventions are evaluated.


    Hein de Vries is Professor of Health Communication at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He has a strong interest in theories and theory development on psycho-social determinants of health behaviour, in particular, attitudes, social influences and self-efficacy; planning models for health promotion and health psychology; and development, evaluation and diffusion of interventions (e.g. video-peer-led programmes, school programmes, work site programmes, self-help manuals, computer tailoring).


    James Hartley is Honorary Research Professor of Psychology at the University of Keele, Staffordshire, UK. His main research interests lie in written communication, with especial reference to typography and layout, but he is also well known for his research into teaching and learning in the context of higher education. Professor Hartley is a Fellow of both the British Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association. He has published a series of books including Designing Instructional Text, 3rd edition (Kogan Page, 1994) and Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Handbook (Routledge, 2008) (email: j.hartley@psy.keele.ac.uk)


    Gerjo Kok is former Dean and Professor of Applied Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University. He held the Dutch AIDS Fund endowed professorship for AIDS prevention and health promotion, 1992–2004. His main research interests are the application of social psychology to health promoting behaviour, energy conservation, traffic safety, and the prevention of stigmatisation.


    Anke Oenema is Associate Professor of Health Communication in the Department of Health Promotion at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Her main research interests are in development, evaluation and innovation of computer-tailored interventions aimed at the promotion of dietary and physical activity behaviours and obesity prevention. She focuses on improving efficacy and reach of interventions by delivering computer-tailored interventions through new media, to implement ‘new’ variables such as environmental factors, and on applying new techniques such as motivational interviewing in computer-tailored programs.


    Rob Ruiter is Associate Professor of Applied Psychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. His research focuses on studying the effects of persuasive health messages and the underlying change mechanisms. He also has a strong interest in research capacity building in Sub-Saharan Africa through developing and testing theory- and evidence-based health promotion interventions while training young students to become fully qualified public health researchers.


    Jonathan van ‘t Riet is a Researcher at Wageningen University and Research Center. His research interests are in consumer behaviour. He specialises in the determinants of food choice and the effects of health communication messages, with a special interest in message framing and defensive reactions to health-promoting messages.

    Marieke Werrij is a Lecturer in the Department of Occupational Therapy of Zuyd University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Marieke previously worked as a researcher in the field of health promotion at Maastricht University. Her main research interests are persuasive communication, with a special interest in message framing, and the cognitive approach to (the treatment of) obesity.

    Patricia Wright is Professor Emerita at the School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Wales. Patricia is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Her research explores how the design of information influences people's behaviour with printed and online materials. (email: wrightp1@cardiff.ac.uk)

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