Being a Mile Wide and a Foot Deep

The Benefits of Being a Mile Wide and a Foot Deep

By Mike Mackert

The fall semester is (somehow) almost over, which means a chance to look back on what happened in the last few months and see what needs to get done before the break. One thing that has particularly struck me is how I’ve had an increasing number of conversations lately where a primary benefit of the Center for Health Communication (CHC) is that it’s a “mile wide and a foot deep.”

A lot of academic centers might be built around a particular health issue or population or media channel. The CHC was formally established after there were already a number of faculty working in health communication, so the CHC was extremely broad when it was founded: faculty and graduate students were doing work across a host of health issues, populations, and levels of communication – everything from interpersonal to mobile to mass media. Having existing expertise across so many areas of communication and health contexts is a rare commodity.

As examples of ongoing projects, right now we are doing work with the UT System Texas Health Journal to cover health research across the state, Texas Health and Human Services and Board of Pharmacy on a component of the state’s response to the opioid epidemic, UT System and MD Anderson Cancer Center on the Eliminate Tobacco Use initiative, an app developed to engage dads around prenatal health, and have a role with the Bridging Barriers research grand challenge Whole Communities Whole Health.

One of the most exciting things about meetings on campus or in the community is how the CHC’s breadth makes it possible to form teams around new opportunities for health communication research, practice, and education. As an example, we’re supporting a new project focused on how people are using fitness trackers and apps to monitor their health.

The interdisciplinary nature of our work means we get to explore new health issues and populations while applying lessons learned from one context to a new project. It’s amazing how often solutions in one context have utility in another, and it’s one of the CHC’s greatest strengths we bring to all our projects.  I’m looking forward to the next few weeks and wrapping up 2018, as well as launching and pursuing new partnerships and projects as we head into 2019.