James Dearing, professor and chairperson for the Department of Communication, will discuss the diffusion of innovations at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on February 6. The meeting is organized by the journal Health Affairs which has released a special issue about diffusion research.
Dearing and co-author Jeffrey Cox, a research associate in the department, wrote the lead theory article for the special issue. Health Affairs ranks as the top health policy journal nationally and internationally.
Diffusion research focuses on the factors that lead to ideas and practices spreading from one place to another, such as from city to city and from hospital to hospital. In the context of Dearing and Cox’s article, the topic is health policy and the factors and variables that explain why jurisdictions and organizations adopt new policies.
“The purpose of this article is to tell readers of the journal which things spread and which don’t and why that is,” said Dearing. “For Health Affairs readers, many of whom are policymakers and expert staff of elected officials, this is something that they live every day but can be hard to understand.”
According to Dearing, health researchers often conduct studies to test whether new health interventions – such as pharmaceutical drugs or disease prevention programs – are effective and safe.
“Once they understand that, if their data are convincing, the researchers or their sponsors such as federal agencies may want to spread those effective interventions to other needy populations. When they are successful, that’s diffusion,” said Dearing.
Cox noted that there are limitless applications to the topic of diffusion.
“Studies in healthcare, workplaces and organizational communication provide opportunities to look specifically at how diffusion affects health policy,” said Cox.
By Nikki W. O'Meara