The importance of communication for health professionals: Guest Blogger Dr. Mohan Lal Jangwal

The modern era is known as the era of information, with “communication” as its main source. Various sources of communication (the best example being media), process and generate the information, though most of the facts that we get to know about someone or something may not be precise. In technical terms, it may be regarded as misinformation which is not accountable. However the process of divulging the misinformation may be unintentional, due to a lack of knowledge and command on the subject.

The main role of communication is to empower people with knowledge and skill, but it is only possible if the knowledge is communicated accurately. Unfortunately, the health sector is the most affected if the explicit message does not reach the target population. Thus various effective communication strategies, methods, programs and interventions should be discovered and put forward, to inform and influence individuals and communities to enhance their health.

The health of the people is affected by biological, environmental, genetic, behavioral characteristics, and so on. Behavior is the most important element of disease patterns in society, and here the word “behaviour” refers to the people’s and the community’s existing knowledge, opinions, attitudes, and practices that make up their lifestyles. Behaviours of a person determine whether the person is at risk, because most of the health problems today are related to people’s lifestyles.
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The prime aim of communication is to make people aware of healthy and unhealthy practices that they have acquired in the past. This can be achieved by good communication between healthcare providers and their patients. However, health providers should understand that communication can be verbal as well as non-verbal in almost every field of life, especially in the health profession. When we discuss the various types of communication, the target population, the content of the message, and the medium should be given due emphasis. But it is important to note that we should not assume that the “skill of communication” is not an inherent quality in everyone, and it is a specialized task. Whether the patient perceives the message or not, it can only be judged through proper feedback from the patient, so the feedback component becomes even more important.

Previously, the role of communication was only to create awareness through health education, but now stress is given to change the behaviour of the individual, so that they can apply this knowledge to prevent disease and promote health. Hence, we can say that knowledge alone does not lead to change in behaviour. Peoples’ health behaviour changes over time, through the process of acquiring new information and knowledge (awareness) about their health and its care, which leads them to form their opinion, attitudes (favorable or unfavorable), and acceptance or rejection in real-life situations. Thus it is the attitude of the individual that impacts the behaviour.

Most of the time, change of behaviour is of paramount importance to reduce the risk of a health problem. There are many methods we can use to communicate with each other, but some are specific to certain field. For example, in case of HIV/AIDS, pre- as well as post-counseling is essential to reduce the risk of infection and to give psycho-social support to the HIV +ve patient, as well. Here, counseling is a one type of interpersonal communication, and it is also crucial to understand that behaviour is not only related to non-communicable diseases, but a broad spectrum of diseases.

Various studies show that communication is an indispensable aspect of preventing disease and promoting health, but it is also an integral part of the clinical setting. Now-a-days, people are not only concerned about getting certain diseases, but also want to remain healthy otherwise.

Communication is important for individuals, family, and society to deal with various aspects of life like nutrition, sanitation, immunization, etc. Although every health programme has the communication component even at the planning level, this interaction activity is still not in the centre stage of the implementation level.

Most of time, communication is ignored at the implementation level, whereas it should be implemented with letter and spirit. Communication is important for healthcare providers, whether they are doctors or para-medical personnel working in the hospital, or in a rural health set-up. But most of the health personnel at the various levels are not showing interest in communication activities. This lack of interest in such activities may be because most of the healthcare providers are not sensitized about their importance. Another reason may be deficiency in training, and not being well-equipped with communication skills. Those healthcare providers involved in communication should be knowledgeable and fully trained in their specific topics. After successful communication activity by the healthcare providers, it becomes the responsibility of the individual and the aware community to spread the light of knowledge to the general population.

 Mohan Lal Jangwal Dr. Mohan Lal Jangwal, Assistant Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Govt. Medical College, Amritsar

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