Fostering Interdisciplinary Boundary Spanning in Health Communication: A Call for a Paradigm Shift

Krista Hoffmann-Longtin*, Anna M. Kerr, Sara Shaunfield, Christopher J. Koenig, Carma L. Bylund, Margaret F. Clayton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scholarship in the field of health communication is broad, with interdisciplinary contributions from researchers trained in a variety of fields including communication, nursing, medicine, pharmacy, public health, and social work. In this paper, we explore the role of “health communication boundary spanners” (HCBS), individuals whose scholarly work and academic appointment reflect dual citizenship in both the communication discipline and the health professions or public health. Using a process of critical reflective inquiry, we elucidate opportunities and challenges associated with HCBS across the spectrum of health communication in order to provide guidance for individuals pursuing boundary spanning roles and those who supervise and mentor them. This dual citizen role suggests that HCBS have unique skills, identities, perspectives, and practices that contribute new ways of being and knowing that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. The health communication field is evolving in response to the need to address significant healthcare and policy problems. No one discipline has the ability to single-handedly fix our current healthcare systems. Narrative data from this study illustrate the importance of seeing HCBS work beyond simply being informed by disciplinary knowledge. Rather, we suggest that adapting ways of knowing and definitions of expertise is an integral part of the solution to solving persistent health problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-576
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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