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Explaining Illness

  • By: Bryan B. Whaley
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Explaining illness is an area of inquiry that concerns the use of informatory and explanatory discourse, coupled with linguistic and visual communicative strategies, to design messages for the purposes of aiding patients' understanding of the anatomical, physiological, biological, and process factors affecting their health. Some scholars suggest that an illness explanation should describe the health-related problem, its cause, and the effects of the medical condition, followed by the procedures, tests, and the medications involved. Research indicates that patients find, as essential, that illness explanations address the cause, effects, treatment and process, side effects, and expectations of treatment.

Researchers suggest that several core factors can hinder the illness explanation process. Specifically, among the most prominent and frequent barriers are (1) differentiating between foundational and needed meanings of ...

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