Chapman University to Offer Health Risk and Crisis Communication Programs

Online program designed to prepare communicators for health crises and disaster response

by / January 13, 2009

Chapman University College will introduce a new Master of Science Degree and graduate certificate program in Health Risk and Crisis Communication (HRCC) as the school's first completely online degree offering in the spring semester which commences Jan. 23, 2009. The HRCC program can be completed in 18 months.

"Chapman University College's new Health Risk and Crisis Communications program will benefit those ranging from professionals who interact with patients and their families on everyday medical issues to emergency responders who react to natural or man-made disasters," said Gary Brahm, chancellor of Chapman University College. "Whether communicating during a crisis or explaining a prognosis or medical procedure to a patient, it's critical that those tasked with communicating critical information understand the importance of their role in delivering information. Offering this degree online will allow a more geographically dispersed student body direct access to this important education program so they are equipped to react to complex communications challenges."

The program will prepare students for leadership roles in health and related fields such as healthcare, pharmacy, nutrition and wellness, government and public policy by focusing on communications which take place through consumer-provider interaction, the media, health campaigns, international perspectives, mental health, gerontology, oncology and public health.

"While health risk and crisis communications is often associated with disasters and health epidemics, communication is an important everyday function for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals," said Lisa Sparks, PhD and HRCC program developer. "Everyday, people from diverse backgrounds interact with medical professionals about complex health care issues that are difficult to understand. By educating health personnel to communicate in a style which can be easily understood by their audience, we can help reduce miscommunication, which will result in improved health outcomes, better emergency preparedness and response, and a reduction in medical malpractice."

The program is being led by Sparks, who is a professor and presidential research fellow of health and risk communication at Chapman University in Orange, and director of graduate students of the Master of Science in health communication in the Schmid College of Science.

Other key HRCC faculty include Melinda Villagran, PhD, and Gary Kreps, PhD. Villagran is an associate professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. and affiliate faculty member with GMU's Center for Risk and Health Communication and the Center for Excellence in Climate Change Communication Research. Kreps is chair of the department of communications at GMU and directs the Center for Health and Risk Communication.