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Health Communication Outcomes: At the Heart of Good Outcome Objectives and Indicators & Priority Setting: A Systematic Approach to Making Health Promotion Program Choices


This week’s feature combines two articles, both based on newly released THCU Infopacks.

I Health Communication Outcomes: At the Heart of Good Outcome Objectives and Indicators, submitted by Sophie Rosa, Health Promotion Field Support Specialist, Public Health Ontario

II Priority Setting: A Systematic Approach to Making Health Promotion Program Choices, submitted by Susan Snelling, Health Promotion Field Support Specialist, Public Health Ontario

I Health Communication Outcomes: At the Heart of Good Outcome Objectives and Indicators


In keeping with THCU's tradition of translating scientific literature into useful tools and products, the latest Infopack delivers a comprehensive list of key health communication outcomes to guide the planning efforts of public health professionals.

Health communication campaigns can generate an abundance of effects, making each decision during the planning phase critical to ensure it reaches its goal and objectives. Decisions such as a message’s tone or the type of channels and tactics to favor should rest on a clear vision of a campaign’s intended outcomes. To assist public health professionals in defining their vision of success, THCU used the literature to find reliable, valid and accessible outcomes that are specifically designed to measure progress of health communication efforts.

This tool becomes even more indispensable as health units across Ontario incorporate social media in their health communication campaigns.  As health units start to tap into the power of social media, a clear set of health communication outcomes becomes even more critical to ensure they are leveraging their web presence for positive and significant changes.

Within the context of Communication for Social Change, health units aiming to facilitate greater community engagement or to mobilize a community around a given issue can also benefit from this tool during the planning stages of their campaign. Recent literature suggests that Communication for Social Change should be considered when choosing health communication outcomes of interest. Consequently, the Infopack elaborates on the seven outcome areas which can be measured to help assess the level of social change in a community:

  • Leadership for community changes
  • Degree and equity of participation in community change efforts
  • Community access to information and level of awareness and knowledge about a health issue or program
  • Community beliefs in its shared capability to attain their goals and accomplish desired tasks (efficacy)
  • Sense of ownership relating to a community problem/issue and/or program
  • Social cohesion;  the forces that act on members of a group or community to remain in and actively contribute to the group
  • Social norms or accepted (and generally practiced) community standards and rules.

Product Overview

The Infopack Health Communication Outcomes: At the Heart of Good Outcome Objectives and Indicators ( brings together a comprehensive list of health communication outcomes and provides guidance on how to consider audiences and outcomes at four different levels: individual (initiation or maintenance of a personal behaviour change), network (the social environment that impacts an individual and/or behaviour.), organization (policies and procedures) and society (formal laws). It also presents a few relevant theoretical models available to help clarify how change might be affected at each level, and how to choose short-term outcomes when time or resources prevent us from measuring longer term changes in behaviour, social environment, etc.


Why is defining a clear picture of your intended outcome so important? First, it will ensure sound decision-making throughout the life of the initiative. Second, it will allow public health professionals to effectively pool available resources; planning and implementing health communication campaigns involves many professionals and partners (e.g., graphic design firms, elected officials, etc.) that may not be familiar with health promotion principles. Giving them a clear direction will ensure their efforts complement yours.

II Priority Setting: A Systematic Approach to Making Health Promotion Program Choices


Choices, choices…when we plan health promotion programs, we are faced with choices about what to do and what’s most important.  These choices may relate to which risk factors to address, which audiences to focus on, which settings to work in, and which strategies to implement.  At THCU, field support specialists are often asked to assist groups with the priority-setting part of their planning process.

So let’s back up and think about what’s involved in a good priority-setting process.  What evidence should we bring into play when setting priorities?  Who should be involved in setting priorities?  How realistic is our process for setting priorities, in terms of time and resources?  And have we identified the ‘rules’ for choosing one priority over another?  All of these questions may emerge before we even start to make choices.

The Priority Setting Process Checklist described in the THCU InfoPac ( is a tool that can help you to consider all the factors in a good priority setting process. It is based on the assumption that involving stakeholders in setting priorities will ensure the acceptability of those priorities further down the road in planning and implementation.  


The checklist is organized around the five elements of project management identified in Step 1 of THCU’s Health Promotion Program Planning Workbook: data collection; meaningful participation by stakeholders; resources; time; and decision-making. The checklist will help you to reflect on possible data sources that can guide your priority setting, and prompts you to consider several ways to involve stakeholders when you are making program choices.  

Please see the Infopac for the complete Priority Setting Process Checklist and more information on priority setting.

Tips and Techniques

Once you’ve thought through the priority setting process you want to use, there are some other options to consider.  What techniques can you use to identify the top priorities among your stakeholders, combine the different perspectives, and come up with your top choices?  THCU has other resources that can help to make the priority-setting process systematic: Setting Priorities: Strategic Techniques for Groups – Slides and link to audio and Priority-Setting: Four Methods for Getting to What’s Important. (All available online at

These resources explain how to use four priority-setting methods: dotmocracy, paired comparisons, decision boxes, and grid analysis.  These methods vary in their level of technical detail, but all of them involve processes for discerning preferences among group members and making comparisons between the possibilities to come up with the top preferred items.


Used together, the Priority Setting Process Checklist will help you to get the right input into your priority setting process, from data and from stakeholders.  Then the four priority-setting methods give you options for ways to use the data and stakeholder input to come up with the highest priority choices.
Choices…made easier!