Date of Award

Spring 2004

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Given the prevalence of different types of cancer, people might need to take more personal actions to maintain and to protect their health. In large part, communication and education systems are the vehicles through which people learn about risks to their health, safety, and well being, and learn about actions they, as individuals, can take to protect themselves. This form of communication is referred to as risk communication. Since the 1980's risk communication research has explored topics such as the presentation of risk estimates, the development of trust and credibility in risk messages, and the factors that influence risk perception (Covello, 1992). However, despite risk communication research efforts, much is still unknown. A roadblock in our current understanding of risk communication is that the research conducted to date is largely atheoretical (Northouse & Northouse, 1998). By concentrating on the information campaign outcomes desired by agencies that sponsor the messages, the research overlooks the essential "audience-based" approach, which is so important to understanding and implementing communication (Maibach & Parrott, 1995). Fortunately, risk communication research, in general, is progressing beyond the sender-based model of communication to the audience-based approach. An audience-based approach is concerned with the ways that people seek and process information, what motivates such communication activities, and the effects of these processes on cognitions and behaviors (Maibach & Parrott, 1995).



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