Taking a healthy look at communication 

By Karen Herland

Access to health care is the subject of an ongoing debate in this country. The latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication (CJC), titled Communicating Health, examines the issue from multiple perspectives.

Communications professor Kim Sawchuk has been the editor of the CJC since 2005. “This is a landmark issue of the journal; the material covers ethnographic research, community-based responses to health promotion, the visualization of the body, policy analysis and the reporting of health news.”

A reception also launched a book co-edited by Sawchuk, Verkörperungen/embodiment. She welcomed guests “in celebration of all the work we do that combines community involvement, activism and intellectual scholarship.”

The Nov. 15 event was sponsored by the communications department, the Simone de Beauvoir Institute and Projet Polyvalence, an action research project on the HIV/STD prevention needs of people who have sex with both men and women in Montreal.

Viviane Namaste, Acting Principal of the SdB Institute, was a researcher on the first phase of Projet Polyvalence, which was described in one of the articles in the CJC.

The project began with the recognition that existing HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns did not directly address the needs of people who have sex with both men and women. Community members were recruited to participate in interviews identifying the gaps in knowledge they faced, and to work together through an advisory committee to produce needed materials.

This is one of several examples of material produced by <em>Projet Polyvalence</em> for an STD prevention campaign. Magnifying glass

This is one of several examples of material produced by Projet Polyvalence for an STD prevention campaign.

“What’s interesting about the project is that it is community-based. Academics were not involved as experts, but to try to facilitate the production of knowledge,” Namaste said at the launch. “The community was recruited not just to describe the problem, but to actually do something about it.”

Many of the participants in the project as well as those who had worked on the designs for the educational materials developed through the project were present. Namaste is hoping to secure funding to distribute the material.

“We are working to distribute (Communicating Health) to Health Canada, as we think a lot of the material is important for policy-makers,” Sawchuk said.

Meanwhile, Verkörperungen/embodiment is the result of a project begun two years ago when Sawchuk met Christina Lammer at a conference in England. “She’d read a book I co-edited with Janine Marchessault called Wild Science and we developed a strong intellectual connection,” Sawchuk said.

Their collaboration expanded to include Catherine Pilcher, a curator living with multiple sclerosis. The three co-edited the volume that brings together texts by a number of women written in both German and English.

Sawchuk has one more year in her term at CJC, and has been asked to continue for another three years until 2011.

“The journal is a space where you can create a diverse intellectual community and nurture a discipline by reflecting its shifting concerns, like health communications ” Sawchuk said. She enjoys working collaboratively as well as the opportunity to “provide generous and generative intellectual feedback.”

This issue was dedicated to the memory of Gail Guthrie Valaskakis, a mentor and friend to many of those involved in the Communication Studies Department who worked at the Aboriginal Healing Foundation after retiring from Concordia. A memorial in the issue was written by Lorna Roth.


Concordia University