The Need for Systems Approaches for Precision Communications in Public Health

J Health Commun. 2023 Apr 7;28(sup1):13-24. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2023.2220668.


A major challenge in communicating health-related information is the involvement of multiple complex systems from the creation of the information to the sources and channels of dispersion to the information users themselves. To date, public health communications approaches have often not adequately accounted for the complexities of these systems to the degree necessary to have maximum impact. The virality of COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation has brought to light the need to consider these system complexities more extensively. Unaided, it is difficult for humans to see and fully understand complex systems. Luckily, there are a range of systems approaches and methods, such as systems mapping and systems modeling, that can help better elucidate complex systems. Using these methods to better characterize the various systems involved in communicating public health-related information can lead to the development of more tailored, precise, and proactive communications. Proceeding in an iterative manner to help design, implement, and adjust such communications strategies can increase impact and leave less opportunity for misinformation and disinformation to spread.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Health Communication*
  • Humans
  • Public Health