Center for Health Communication

Director: Jay A. Winsten, Ph.D., Frank Stanton Center Director and Associate Dean for Health Communication

A key challenge facing health professionals is to mobilize the power of mass communication to empower individuals to adopt healthy behaviors, to direct policy makers’ attention to important health issues, and to frame those issues for public debate and resolution. To address this challenge, the Center for Health Communication has helped pioneer the field of mass communication and public health by researching and analyzing the contributions of mass communication to behavior change and policy, by preparing future health leaders to utilize communication strategies, and by strengthening communication between journalists and health professionals.

New Initiative

Preventing Distracted Driving
The Center has pioneered the development of health communication campaigns, starting over 30 years ago when it launched the U.S. Designated Driver Campaign in collaboration with Hollywood studios and TV networks. As mentioned in The New York Times, the Center is developing a U.S. campaign to prevent injuries and fatalities resulting from distracted driving.

We wanted to find out why all efforts to date to tackle distracted driving have utterly failed.
Jay Winsten (to the Associated Press)

Dr. Jay A. Winsten (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
AP Photo/Steven Senne

In this latest initiative, the Center is working with state and Federal officials to develop the next generation of public awareness messaging to prevent injuries and fatalities caused by “distracted driving.”

Harvard Chan’s news feature, The Big 3, sat down with Jay Winsten to ask him three questions focused on distracted driving. Read the interview:Jay WinstenThe Center, in collaboration with The Huffington Post, produced the month-long series, Road To Nowhere, to draw attention to the dangers of texting while driving and asked: How We Can Begin To Curb The Distracted Driving Epidemic?


Recent Highlights from the “Changing Minds, Saving Lives” Lunchtime Seminar Series:

Ad for a 2018 installment of the "Changng Minds, Saving Lives" series sponsored by the Center for Health Communication (CHC) that featured Jay A. Winsten, Ph.D., Director of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's CHC. Dr. Winsten is posed with Designated Driver Ad, stating: "The Designated Driver Is the Life of the Party"

Media's Role in Public Health (September 17, 2019)

What are the ingredients of a successful media campaign to change minds and save lives?
How do you attract and sustain the public’s attention in a highly-fragmented media environment at a time when the public has an extremely short attention span?

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health Communication has pioneered in creating large-scale behavior-change campaigns in collaboration with Hollywood studios and TV networks. Dr. Jay Winsten, Center director, presented lessons learned from these campaigns.

Piyush Tewari, founder & CEO, SaveLIFE Foundation

India: Campaigning for Road Safety (October 3, 2018)

Piyush Tewari, founder & CEO, SaveLIFE Foundation:
Outraged by a family member’s fate, Mr. Tewari quit his job in the financial sector and created the SaveLIFE Foundation to campaign for Good Samaritan protections for bystanders who get involved.
Piyush Tewari shared his experience — his successes along the way and the challenges ahead in changing social norms through communication and advocacy.

Highlights and coverage from past symposiums featuring the Center’s  Jay Winsten:

May 4, 2018Self-Driving Cars: Pros and Cons for the Public’s Health

This episode of The FORUM at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is part of the “Policies Controversies” series and featured the Center’s Director, Jay Winsten, as part of an expert panel that explored the risks and benefits of a driverless future to the public and reviewed current technology and regulation.

Expert panel from The FORUM at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health's "Self-Driving Cars: Pros and Cons for the Public's Health"

Checking the progress of self-driving cars

‘Predictions for self-driving cars in Harvard discussion.’
(photo by Sarah Sholes)
Read the article by Alvin Powell

April 27, 2018 Texting Ourselves to Death

Is Distracted Driving a Solvable Problem or a Fact of Life? Can brain science and psychology provide insights to dramatically reduce distraction-related roadway fatalities and injuries? Can technology play a role in solving the problem it helped to create? This special luncheon event explored these and related questions and was presented by the Center for Health Communication and the Travelers Institute in collaboration with the National Safety Council, Road to Zero Coalition, and MassBike. The program featured a keynote presentation followed by a panel discussion that included the Center’s Director, Jay Winsten, among others.

Texting Ourselves to Death

With multitasking increasing behind the wheel, experts ponder how to keep drivers’ eyes on the road

(Photo by Sarah Sholes, from right)
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Jay Winsten and Travelers Institute’s Joan Woodward
Read coverage by Amy Roeder

Preventing Deadly Distracted Driving

Featuring The Honorable Anthony Foxx, (then) U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Presented by The FORUM at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in collaboration with The Huffington Post

Read The Huffington Post Op/Ed by Jay Winsten

Other Center Initiatives

driverThe Center’s best-known initiative, the Harvard Alcohol Project, demonstrated how a new social concept — the designated driver — could be rapidly introduced through mass communication, promoting a new social norm that the driver does not drink. The project represents the first large-scale effort to incorporate health messages within the dialogue of Hollywood scripts.


Nationachc-2013MentoringWorksl Mentoring Month, launched in January 2002, is an annual month-long campaign which includes a combination of national media, local media, and extensive community outreach.


Eat EnglishCOVERPageWell Stay Active Have Fun: A Guide for Mentors

Provides information and guidance on how to make healthy eating and physical activity natural parts of the mentor-mentee relationship.




Also available in Spanish.

“Squash It!” Campaign to Prevent Youth Violence, seeks to reinforce and validate chc-squashdecisions by young people to disengage from potentially violent confrontations, promote positive alternatives to violence, and empower young people by providing a platform to express their views on violence prevention.


Other Center projects involve exploring policy options to curb domestic violence; researching the use of cause-related marketing strategies for health promotion; using mass media strategies to improve early childhood immunization and to curb teen pregnancy; and examining the relationship between science, technology, and the media.

The Harvard Parenting Project consolidated and disseminated research findings about parenting issues on behalf of the media, policy makers, practitioners, advocates, educators, community leaders, and parents. The Project has produced two reports, Raising Teens (2001) and The Role of the Mass Media in Parenting Education (1997).

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health–MetLife Foundation Initiative on Retirement and Civic Engagement aims to change public attitudes toward aging and motivate baby boomers and retirees to engage in community service. Reinventing Aging: Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement, spotlights key issues that must be addressed to involve large numbers of boomers in strengthening community life.