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07/29/2020 Interview > Faculty > ERICA

Title

[ERICA's Innovation] A Healthy Society Comes from Healthy Communication, Professor Lee Byung-kwan, Department of Advertising & Public Relations

[HY ERICA] Interviews Professor Lee Byung-kwan, a first generation researcher on health communication

Global News Team

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http://www.hanyang.ac.kr/surl/c7fWB

Contents
A healthy society comes from health communication, Professor Lee Byung-kwan, Department of Advertising & Public Relations

The world is going through chaos because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In times like this, accurate communication is essential. Professor Lee Byung-kwan, a first-generation health communication researcher in Korea, warned that it would be difficult to overcome the crisis if rapid and active communication is not conducted.
▲Professor Lee Byung-kwan, Department of Advertising & Public Relations
WIth COVID-19, what is the role of communication?

The Wall Street Journal highlighted Jeong Eun-kyung's consistent honesty, information-based analysis, and composure as powerful calmatives for Koreans. Professor Lee Byung-kwan, a health communication expert, gave a positive assessment from a different perspective.

"Epidemiologists and medical professionals tend to only deliver the threats of diseases scientifically and objectively. However, the public cares more about the dangers that they present to individuals and their families. Unlike previous infectious diseases, they have fully understood the needs of the public and have been conveying information that the public is curious about."

Having said this, Professor Lee praised the quarantine authorities for giving briefings every single day since the outbreak of COVID-19. Delivery of accurate information is important to prevent the public from being biased against fake news. This phenomenon is called the "Negative Dominance Model."

"During a pandemic, the government should manage two things at the same time. One is quarantine, and the other is the delivery of accurate information via communication. Otherwise, the public will overestimate the threat and get anxious. On the contrary, they may underestimate the threat and react negligently." A very good example of social panic occured during the MERS and swine flu outbreaks. Fake news that spreads excessive fear and anxiety during a pandemic is another virus that needs to be eradicated.


▲ Professor Lee Byung-kwan is putting forth efforts to strengthen students' abilities to foster sincere social skills

Building a Platform to Discuss Domestic Health Communication


Professor Lee Byung-kwan's research field is health communication. It is the field of exploring communication strategies to enhance the health of our society. In other words, it is a field of communication that "provides information", " influences others", "provides motivation", as well as "reflects attitude and behavior", and "strengthens competence" in relation to the health of individuals and society. There are many topics that directly relate to the health of individuals and society, such as treatments and responses to problems like AIDS, obesity, drunk-driving, dating violence, smoking, and so on. Politics and medical and pharmaceutical industries are also included. Although the research field is diverse, we are able to see that all these topics are closely related to our lives.

Over the past decade, the importance of health communication has been increasing alongside diseases like swine flu and MERS. However, ten years ago, Korea did not have a platform for health communication.


In fact, Professor Lee Byungkwan was only able to encounter the field of health communication when he was in America for further studies but did not pay much attention to it. However, he got interested in this field while conducting research on AIDS and family planning campaigns in Africa with his advisor. For this, he is very grateful to his advisor.

▲What is Health Communication?

 
"The good thing about health communication research is that the subject and target of the study are not abstract. They are real and clear. I also have a little sense of pride that I am able to help in solving health-related problems."

After returning to Korea, Lee, together with other professors, started a Health Communication Research Association which later became an official academic association in 2009 with Lee serving as the first Chairman. He also received a commendation for serving as an advisor to the AIDS/Tuberculosis Advisory Committee from the Disease Control and Prevention Center. 


Professor Lee Byung-kwan's field of interest is the evaluation of the effectiveness of various disease-related campaigns. Holding campaigns is important but calculating the impact of these campaigns is equally important. Last year, Lee offered a solution to measure the actual impact for a tuberculosis campaign which required the largest budget in Korea after smoking. 

"To measure the effectiveness of the campaign, we need to measure the behavior changes before and after exposure to the campaign. However, our daily routines are uncontrolled, which makes it difficult to assess the changes accurately. Hence, these methodological limitations should be overcome by statistical algorithms for more accurate results. The recent research studies have reflected this interest."

In relation to this, Professor Lee published an evaluation of the tuberculosis campaign impact in one of the medical journals called the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. Currently, Professor Lee is carrying out a research study on Bayesian structural time-series mode algorithms to measure the impact anti-smoking campaigns have had over the last 5 years. 


▲Professor Lee Byung-kwan, who served as the first president of the Korea Health Communication Association, is being credited for leading the development of health communication in Korea.


Finding worth in the community

Professor Lee Byung-kwan worked as a member of National Committee in Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response in 2015 when MERS broke out and paid close attention to live social media messages. At that time, Lee was establishing a system to monitor social media data in real-time by using machine learning techniques when MERS broke out, giving Professor Lee the chance to help prevent the spread of MERS while collecting and analyzing the public's opinion at the same time. He also advised the Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response team to monitor social media data steadily during the outbreak of COVID-19. As such, Professor Lee showed interest in data science that uses machine learning or AI as a method to study health communication. 

"Students who study social science tend to think that they are not  real 'scientists,' but social science requires a scientific approach to explain social phenomena. Therefore, I always oppose arguments that are abstract and emphasize that students think theoretically with evidence."

 
Professor Lee mentioned that studying health communication makes him naturally interested in medical services. He conducted an Industry Coupled Problem Based Learning (IC-PBL) project at Ansan Medical Welfare Social Cooperative last year. From conducting cooperative and community health communication cooperation classes with students, innovative ideas were found. To contricute to the community, Lee plans to create an "Ansan City Health Map" that provides health indicators for local members in Ansan. 

Written by: Park Young-im    Photos by: Ha Ji-kwon

 
This information was published in Hanyang University Newsletter "HY ERICA Summer Issue 2020 (No.95)"
▶ HY ERICA summer issue 2020 (No.95)
▶ Know more about HY ERICA at [[HYUWIKI]] ​​





Global News Team
global@hanyang.ac.kr
Translation by: Lee Hee-jin
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