Jay M. Bernhardt, former director of the National Center for Health Marketing at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been named founding director of The University of Texas at Austin Moody College of Communication’s new Center for Health Communication.
Beginning July 1, Bernhardt will serve as the center’s director and as a professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Department of Advertising and Public Relations. He will also serve as the Everett D. Collier Centennial Chair in Communication.
Startup funds for the center were provided through a $1 million endowment from the Moody Foundation as part of its $50 million landmark gift to the university. The Center for Health Communication will improve health care, public health and public safety through communication research and outreach. It will provide resources to train undergraduates and give undergraduate, graduate and faculty researchers more opportunities for collaboration with the new Dell Medical School as well as the University of Texas School of Public Health.
Bernhardt said he looks forward to helping researchers, practitioners and other advocates work together to make a positive difference in the health of people in Texas and across the U.S. and world.
“With the rapid advancement of innovative communication technologies, health communication has the potential to revolutionize health care, medicine and public health,” Bernhardt said. “There are growing opportunities for employment in health communication and increasing demand for cutting-edge training from top academic programs like The University of Texas at Austin. The new Center for Health Communication in the Moody College of Communication has the potential to be the most important and respected center of its kind because of the talented and dedicated faculty, staff, students and partners already at UT Austin.”
Health communication research can be applied to fields such as patient education, community health promotion, health information technology, health and science journalism, pharmaceutical sales, and health law. Recent faculty research explores such topics as how to improve medical disclosure and consent forms; how drug manufacturers and public health officials can better communicate prescription drug risks; how organizations respond to public health emergencies, and how health messages can be designed to reach low health-literate populations.
“We have built a young corps of faculty many of them tenured whose research focus is on health communication,” said Roderick P. Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication. “Having built on their strength and energy, we’re bringing in Dr. Bernhardt, who has the perfect combination of scientific, administrative and fundraising experience to lead the new center.”
Bernhardt currently serves as professor of health education and behavior and founding director of the Center for Digital Health and Wellness at the University of Florida. He has appointments in the University of Florida’s College of Health and Human Performance and the College of Public Health and Health Professions. His research focuses on the application of digital communication technologies including mobile and social media to public health, health care and medicine. His recent research has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Previously, Bernhardt served as director of the National Center for Health Marketing at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During his tenure, the CDC significantly increased its emphasis on science-based health communication research and practice. His agency within the CDC led the federal government in the innovative application of social media, Web 2.0, and mobile applications and expanded its health communication programs internally to East Asia, Central America and East Africa.
Bernhardt received a Ph.D. in health behavior with a concentration in health communication from what is now the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His master of public health degree is from what is now the Rutgers School of Public Health.
Bernhardt is a member of numerous honor societies and has received such prestigious awards as the Everett Rogers Health Communication Award from the American Public Health Association, named for one of the most respected scholars in the field of health communication.