Effective communication is one of the core competencies for public health professionals and is required for local health department (LHD) accreditation. Public health communication specialists play a critical role as conduits of health information, particularly with regard to managing relationships with media and the message that is ultimately represented by news outlets. However, capacity for engagement with traditional media in community health improvement at the local level has not been well-described. As part of a larger study examining the use and impact of the County Health Rankings in North Carolina, LHD media staffing and interaction with traditional media were examined through a cross-sectional, online survey, administered to North Carolina LHDs. Results indicate that most LHDs in North Carolina have staff designated to work with media, but few have dedicated staff or staff with an educational background in mass communication. Most communication staff enter their position with less than one year of experience, though almost all receive some training once on the job. Press releases are issued relatively infrequently, which implies that media engagement and message management are underdeveloped at the local level. These results suggest that health communication specialists are underutilized in LHDs and these skills should be emphasized in LHD hiring practices and in public health workforce development.
Winterbauer NL, Rafferty AP, Jones KA, Tucker-McLaughlin M, Bridger C. Health Communication as a Public Health Training and Workforce Development Issue. Front Public Health Serv Syst Res