NCCU Launches Health Communications Core (HCC) to Expand Capacity in Health Disparities Research

Posted January 05, 2022, 5:23PM
Co-leaders of the Interdisciplinary Health Communications Core (HCC), Dr. Tianduo Zhang, assistant professor of Mass Communication, and Dr. Cherise Harrington, associate professor and senior researcher of Public Health Education

North Carolina Central University will launch an interdisciplinary Health Communications Core (HCC) to meet the growing demand of research and innovation in health information and communication.

A joint effort between the university’s Julius L. Chambers Biomedical Biotechnology Research Institute (JLC-BBRI), College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CASH), and College of Health & Sciences (CHAS), the Core will focus on four key areas: improving health literacy in communities burdened with health disparities; identifying and testing innovative approaches to improve communication across various populations; supporting the university and community partners on research and practice around health communication, literacy and linguistics; and creating opportunities for students to share their passion for health equity and make an impact in their communities.

The program is part of the community engagement research infrastructure developed by the NCCU Research Centers at Minority Institutions (RCMI) grant, which is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).

“Messaging matters,” says Deepak Kumar, Ph.D., director of JLC-BBRI and principal investigator of the NCCU RCMI grant. “Understanding cultural sensitivities of diverse communities is critical for development and dissemination of information to address health disparities. This new research program will add to NCCU’s capacity in health equity research and utilize scientific and evidence-based practices to implement culturally sensitive messaging in diverse communities.”

Co-led by Tianduo Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Mass Communication and Cherise Harrington, MPH, Ph.D., associate professor and senior researcher of Public Health Education, the program will establish a Health Communications Lab with social medial mining capabilities and eye tracking technology for messaging development; Mobile Health (mHealth) and Digital Literacy hubs; and a partnership with the North Carolina Collaborative for Art & Health (NCCAH), which has a network of artists and researchers to identify innovative methods to share key health information using the arts.  

“HCC creates a home for the information and communication-related work that we have already been doing in various RCMI projects and allows us to establish a research agenda,“ said Zhang. “It also brings wonderful opportunities for community-based research and innovation between social science, humanities and health.”

The program is also supported by the Durham County Department of Public Health through the Bull City Strong health literacy improvement program, which is sponsored by the Office of Minority Health; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University through the North Carolina Community Engagement Alliance (NC-CEAL); Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI); and RTI International.

“The foundation of HCC prioritizes collaborative and multi-dimensional teams and approaches that consider the social determinants of health and intersectionality in our health literacy and communication efforts, which are key to addressing health disparities,” said Harrington.  

For more information about the Health Communications Core program, please contact Dr. Tianduo Zhang at

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