Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Communication

First Advisor

Robert Hornik

Abstract

ABSTRACT

COMMUNICATING CANCER PREVENTION INFORMATION TO U.S. LATINOS: THE MODERATING ROLE OF ACCULTURATION.

A. Susana Ramírez

Robert C. Hornik

This dissertation stems from two observations: first, while communication can improve health disparities, important health information often fails to reach U.S. Latinos; second, that research on media, Latinos, and health behaviors is woefully sparse. This project sought to improve the former situation by contributing a body of evidence to the latter. Of specific interest is diversity within the U.S. Latino population relating to media use and health behaviors and outcomes, defined by the concept of acculturation. I sought to accomplish three goals, each forming a distinct study. Study one tested the ethnic/acculturative differences in general and health-specific information exposure from media across three different data sets. Non-Hispanic Whites (NHW) and highly-acculturated Latinos (HAL) are differentially exposed to general content from the media. The same differences were observed with regards to health-specific exposures, although these comparisons proved unstable across the type of exposure and by dataset. These two sources of influence can be ascribed to methodological differences in the way the samples were collected and the surveys conducted. Study two tested the joint effects of exposure and ethnicity/acculturation on health behaviors and knowledge using two national survey data sets. There was limited support for the hypotheses. This study was plagued by the same dataset-based limitations as study one and other methodological and conceptual limitations that made it difficult to detect interaction effects. Study three addressed these limitations. In this online experiment, NHW and HAL rated the perceived effectiveness of cancer prevention messages that were either intended for the general market or Latina-targeted. Results partially support the conclusion that ethnically-targeted messages are more effective for HAL. The issues explored in this dissertation have implications for how health communication campaigns reach Latinos. A key argument underlying this dissertation is that Latinos fare worse on some outcomes as they become acculturated, yet most health communication efforts limit Latino outreach to Spanish-language. Approaches to communicating with Latinos must include outreach to highly-acculturated Latinos who are not regularly consuming Spanish-language media but may be at higher risk for lifestyle-related cancer prevention behaviors. Additionally, this dissertation contributes to communication research methodology to improve research with Latinos.