In opening a dialogue among researchers in each of these areas, NCI hoped to improve applications in health communication by assessing what researchers know, what they don't know, what they surmise, and how the theories can be integrated, thereby clarifying the agenda for future research into crafting and delivering effective messages.
Among the key questions the meeting addressed were:
- What are the most promising health communication theories?
- Do behavior change and health communication scholars see theories in fundamentally different ways?
- Are message-effects theories really just behavior change theories with different wrapping, or are there unique aspects of each?
- To the extent that message-effects theories allow us to better understand how people process messages but don't necessarily provide a direct means to behavior change, should we think of these theories and behavior change theories as operating in tandem?
- Is there a need for new theory, theory development, and theory comparison?
- Should we be seeing different theories as playing different roles for different problems (e.g. prevention vs. early detection, initiation vs. maintenance of behaviors) both good and bad)?
- What impediments are there to the broader collaboration of scientists in message effects and behavior change?
- What are the implications of multimedia technologies? How do they change the nature, design, and effects of the health message? Are new theories of behavior change and message effects needed in these contexts?
- Do the theories apply equally to diverse populations?
- In each of the areas above, what is the evidence base? What do we know? What do we not know? About what do we speculate?
- Finally, what kinds of research do we need to answer the most immediately important questions?