Commentary on Health Communication: Principles and Practices [The University of West Indies Press, 2019] by Professor Godfrey A. Steele

The Center for Health & Risk Communication

Donald L. Rubin
Emeritus Professor, University of Georgia
Department of Communication Studies
Department of Language and Literacy Education
Center for Health and Risk Communication
Co-PI, Consortium for Analysis of Student Success Through International Education (CASSIE)

We live in an age of almost unimaginable medical advances—from precision medicine tailored to a patient’s genetic make-up to robotic surgery that can navigate around delicate nerves and vessels. But no less crucial for restoring health and assuring well-being are the communication behaviors which enable providers and patients to select, implement, and sustain medical procedures. For example, it’s well established that a patient’s post-surgical self-care is contingent on the quality of trust and information exchange between patient and provider. Without such communication, the surgical outcome is likely to be deficient, irrespective of the medical technology brought to bear.
In that light, Professor Godfrey Steele’s mission to impart best practices in communication to the generation of medical providers that he has taught can be seen as an invaluable contribution to healthcare. Now Professor Steele has encoded his courses of instruction in the form of a new volume entitled Health Communication: Principles and Practices [The University of West Indies Press, 2019]. The publication of this comprehensive and practical guide makes available to a wide audience (in the Caribbean and beyond) a very welcome resource for improving communication in all aspects of health care delivery.
The admirable features of Professor Steele’s book are numerous. In terms of content coverage, I was especially pleased to see that the topic of health literacy was interspersed in several locations in the text. Health literacy is indeed a cross-cutting priority; if patients can’t understand basic instructions for medication use or dietary modification, we can hardly say that they have received the intended treatment. Participating in medical teams is another topic that is well integrated in this volume. After all, the contemporary practice of medicine is very much a team sport. Untold medical errors are committed, or opportunities for intervention missed, because of ineffective hand-offs between one shift of nurses and the next or because of incomplete information transmitted in referrals from internists to specialists. If future cohorts of practitioners heed the admonitions in this book, prospects for coordinated medical care will be much enhanced.

Health Communication: Principles and Practices contains elements that render it valuable both as a primary textbook for students and as a guide for health communication instructors. Chapter previews and narrative case studies are proven strategies to facilitate learning. At the same time, the plethora of multimedia and print resources cited, the suggestions for further reflection, and the course outlines included in the book will be useful resources for instructors to draw upon.
In short, in Health Communication: Principles and Practices Professor Steele has compiled a rich compendium of theory and recommendations—valuable for future medical practitioners as well as for current educators–that helps one envision a future of health care in which advances in medical treatment are matched by excellence in the communication behaviors by which those advances are implemented.

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