Classifying Community Organizational Health Communication Networks: Local Health Department Recognition of Public Information-Sharing Partners across Sectors

Anna Goodman Hoover, Pierre Dominique Zephyr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: Local health departments (LHDs) operate within complex, multisectoral organizational communication networks. Network composition may affect priorities, processes, and the reach of health information to key stakeholders. This study seeks to elucidate variation in local network structures to examine how different constellations may affect information sharing across audiences. Design: This study analyzes data from a 2016 US survey of 491 metropolitan LHDs and 556 nonmetropolitan LHDs. Researchers first conducted social network analysis of network density, defined as the total number of potential organizations contributing to a jurisdiction's health communication activities. Researchers then conducted logistic regression to compare the relationship between network density and reported health communication activities targeting 3 specific audiences: policy makers, lay publics, and mass media. Results: Three network types emerged on the basis of the number of organizations that contribute to health communication activities, with low-density Minimal networks more common in nonmetropolitan jurisdictions and higher-density Expanded and Robust networks more common in metropolitan jurisdictions. LHDs in Minimal networks were significantly less likely to communicate with policy makers, lay publics, and mass media than their counterparts in higher-density networks (P <.05). Conclusions: LHDs are embedded in organizational communication networks that vary in both the number of communication partners and the types of audiences reached. Examining their own local organizational communication networks may provide insights into LHDs that wish to improve the effectiveness of public health messaging. By adding organizational communication partners and reaching new audiences, LHDs in Minimal networks can expand the reach of messages designed to help policy makers, communities, and individuals promote health and prevent disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-520
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health Management and Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded through Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant #75708.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. All rights reserved.


  • health promotion
  • information dissemination
  • public health communication
  • public health networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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