In this volume, medical communication is analyzed from various viewpoints: not only from a merely linguistic angle, with a focus on the description of the genres used in medical and healthcare contexts, but also from a social and cultural standpoint, with an emphasis both on the doctor-patient relationship and on the social relevance of the other types of communicative links existing between the many communities involved in this type of interaction.
The study of some of the main fields typical of medical communication has highlighted a considerable variety of themes, data and research methods which are clearly representative of the eclectic interest in this specific domain and of the wide range of approaches developed for its investigation.
As the various chapters show, linguistic analysis proves to be highly applicable to textualizations involving multiple interactions and practices, and several kinds of participants, including different healthcare professionals, trainees and patients.
Living with Diabetes: the Discourse of Medical Information on the Internet for Young People
Health information is one of the most frequently sought topics on the web. People may search for information before consulting a doctor, look for confirmation of information they have already been given or may even attempt a self-diagnosis online (McMullan 2006: 26). Certainly the Internet brings great benefits in the context of health communication, by stretching out to large numbers of people. But it also has a downside, insofar as patients may feel the amount of information available to be overwhelming, conflicting and confusing. Indeed, online communication is far from simple. First of all, it means one-to-many communication, ‘the many’ online being an unknown and undefined public coming from a wide range of social, economic and cultural backgrounds, covering all ages with a variety of life experiences and levels of education. They are not a discourse community with a common level of shared knowledge and interests, which makes it more difficult to calibrate the information at a level that is sufficiently simple, without overstepping the mark by dumbing down. Furthermore, the person looking for information has to be multi-literate (Caballero 2008: 15), as he/she will be searching and selecting the information, reading text, interpreting images or watching a video, so it is in no way a passive experience.
This raises the question of health literacy. Whilst health communication can be seen as the strategies and methods used by doctors and health professionals to inform and influence individuals’ decisions about health, the other...
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