Healthy People, Healthy Planet

In my last blog, I highlighted the emergence of two new cutting-edge research areas in the college - computational communication and neurocognitive communication science.

As much as I am excited about these new areas, it is important to underscore our strong tradition of research in health and environmental communication. Nearly a third of our faculty are engaged in projects that promote healthy people and a healthy planet. These projects begin at home, right here in Flint, and reach as far as Tibet and Tanzania.

Healthy People, Healthy Planet (HP2) is a framework to accelerate collaborations among faculty and to catalyze links between research centers, such as the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Health and Risk Communication Center, Trifecta (a collaboration among ComArtSci, Engineering and Nursing) and Sparrow/MSU Center for Innovation and Research.

Though these centers have slightly different missions and orientations, they are bound by a common goal to promote socially beneficial behaviors by using effective communication to change hearts and minds.

Effective communication in the context of health and the environment often involves risk and probabilities. It is a known fact that as humans we are prone to social and cultural construction of risk, which is at odds with the scientific calculation of risk. Increasingly, processing of scientific information, too, is colored by social, cultural, religious and political beliefs, setting up a formidable communication challenge.

We have to step up to contend with these challenges. On the horizon, we have new technologies such as autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology, genetic modifications and human-robot communication that demand responsible communication of risk.

Health risks of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, smoking and obesity are well known. Interventions to mitigate these risks have to continue. New risks, such a cybersecurity and cyberbullying are taking their toll on society and deserve immediate attention. Violence in all its forms, continues to flourish, from microaggressions to gun violence, sexual violence and genocide, threatening the health and wellness of societies.

Food security, conservation of water, sustainable farming and greenhouse gases cannot be ignored. Climate science cannot be swept under the carpet and it takes communication arts and sciences to drive these messages home.

Researchers in ComArtSci are addressing these many and more topics that affect our safety and security by integrating health, science, risk and environmental communication. Who will promote Healthy People and a Healthy Planet? Spartans Will.

By Prabu David