Communication & Framing in the Context of Health

Poster Presentation, American Psychological Association Annual Convention, 2017

Mahima Sindhu: Communication & Rhetoric Major, Applied Statistics Minor, Global Health Certificate, Managing Health Services Programs & Projects Certificate (Junior, Class of 2021)

So if you’re not a Neuro Major or Pre-Med, then what are you?

This was a prominent question among the many I asked myself during the challenging transition, beginning freshman spring, from a Neuroscience major on the Pre-Med track to a Communication & Rhetoric Major hoping to pursue Public Health. 

Beginning college, I found it simple—if you’re interested in brain science and mental health with the intention of making a direct impact on others, you should become a psychiatrist (see above image for my early experiences in psychology research). Luckily, it wasn’t that simple. You see, from an extracurricular standpoint my interests varied widely—from music and performing arts to writing to engaging in worldly conversations to watching documentaries to traveling, etc. My academic interests followed a similar divergent trajectory—from health to philosophy to history to literature to political science to social justice and so on. But somehow, my stubbornness in wanting to find an interdisciplinary field encompassing all of my scattered interests led me to discover an academic umbrella I now identify as ‘communication’. 

As my scholarly focus evolved, I was able to uncover an element of narrative, rhetoric, and story-telling present in many topics of interest. Further, the study of communication enabled me to understand how to use unique lenses and frameworks to explain these elements. This process was grounded in a public health context through my work in both health certificates, and a means to interpret information via an applied statistics minor. It is through understanding and embodying this integration that I was able to piece together and formally create my ongoing project with mentor Dr. Gordon Mitchell.  

In my research project, I am engaging in an interdisciplinary study that aims to contribute original insights in public policy, communication, and public health. Specifically, I will analyze the testimonies of the 2019 congressional hearing “Overcoming Racial Disparities and Social Determinants in the Maternal Mortality Crisis,” and focus on how witnesses frame both the problem of racial disparities in maternal mortality and potential solutions to the crisis. The primary research method will be a mixed-methods qualitative analysis of a congressional hearing transcript in which I pursue qualitative coding analysis. In doing so, I hope the testimonies will reveal and impart critical information about how maternal mortality policies can develop effective solutions that specifically target the needs of minority populations. This research hails particularly significant and timely as global health continues to struggle addressing maternal mortality and relevant socioeconomic inequities.

In being awarded this Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship, I am not only aware of the urgency and importance of this line of work, but also feel a personal stake, as an aspiring health policy analyst, in being able to help address some of these striking issues that arise from inequitable health care and a specific framing of health communication. I would also like to note the great honor this opportunity presents with the ability to pursue independent research and be pooled into an incredibly vivacious and dedicated community of student scholars conducting noteworthy research.

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