Health Communication Working Group - Call for Proposals 2021

The Health Communication (HEC) Working Group of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) invites the submission of proposals for single papers and multi-paper sessions (the online conference equivalent of a panel in a face to face conference) for IAMCR 2021, which will be held online from 11 to 15 July, 2021. The conference will also have a regional hub in Nairobi, Kenya. Both the online conference and the regional hub will be hosted by the Department of Journalism & Corporate Communication of United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) in Nairobi. The deadline for submission is 9 February 2021, at 23.59 UTC.

See the IAMCR 2021 general call for proposals


IAMCR conferences address a wide diversity of themes defined by our 33 thematic sections and working groups. We also propose a single central theme to be explored throughout the conference with the aim of generating and exploring multiple perspectives. This theme is addressed in plenary and special sessions, and in some sessions of the sections and working groups. Not all submissions have to address this central theme. 

The central theme for IAMCR 2021, Rethinking borders and boundaries: Beyond the global/local dichotomy in communication studies, is concerned with how changes in communication theory and practice are challenging our understanding of global and local, creating new identities and discourses, and enabling a hybrid glocalisation, with both positive and negative consequences. 

Five sub-themes of this central theme have been identified: The rebirth of populist discourses; Activism and the new global social justice movements; Trends in global media ecosystems; Identity: Gender, class, ethnicity, religion, sexuality; and Communication for development in health, climate change and education. See the complete theme description and rationale here.

Conference model: Online with an African "hub" and global satellite activities

In alignment with the possibilities offered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the conference’s main theme, Rethinking Borders and Boundaries, IAMCR 2021’s conference will offer multiple modalities for participation. It will be primarily an online conference but will also have an African “hub” at USIU-Africa, and satellite activities at various points around the globe.The various components of the conference include:

1. Online Conference Papers – Abstracts submitted in response to the section and working groups CfPs will be reviewed by the sections and working groups and accepted authors will be invited to submit short conference papers (1,000 to 4,000 words). These papers will be grouped into sessions and published on the conference website prior to the conference on a platform that will enable discussion the conference.

2. Section and Working Group Online Sessions – IAMCR sections and working groups will curate a number of video sessions highlighting key issues within their thematic areas of specialisation.

3. Flow34 – A stream featuring videos that integrate academic and aesthetic narratives. Proposals for this component will be reviewed by the Flow34 team. Topics can originate from the entire field of Communication and Media Studies. The selected videos will be scheduled and presented on the conference platform.

4. Plenary Sessions – Several plenary sessions streamed from the conference hub at USIU-Africa will feature contributions from around the globe. 

5. Special and Partner Sessions – These video sessions will be produced by IAMCR and its partners. 

6. Nairobi Hub – In addition to being at the centre of the global online activities, the conference hub, at USIU-Africa, will host a regional face-to-face event (in accordance with the possibilities afforded by the pandemic). The regional event will interact with the global at several moments of the conference. 

7. Other Regional/National Hubs – We are currently considering the involvement of other regional and national hubs and will be accepting requests from IAMCR members interested in sponsoring them. 

This call for proposals is for the Online Conference Papers.

IAMCR members will have full access to all online components.

The global/local binaries of public health responses during pandemics and public health crises create many alternative ways of communicating, seeing, experiencing and making sense of the world. The advances in technology further alter the way in which discourses of health, wellbeing and social change are captured with an urgency to keep glocalisation and translocality current and prominent in our research agenda. Drawing one of the five main conference themes, but not limited too, this call for papers seeks critical debate, discussion and data presentation on the nexus between glocal communication trends and development practice in the realm of health communication. This call for papers/proposals specifically explores issues of Digital platforms for risk and health communication: New Media inclusiveness for social change

The last two decades have seen a rapid increase in the utilisation of new media platforms to relate health information, portray health risks and improve access to knowledge on risk and health seeking behaviour.  The surge of new media in health communication transforms the communication space from media users to active developers of health information with rapid content development and further increased access to health information through various mobile technology platforms. New media to access health related information now enables interactive engagement with the formation of digital health communities to advance the discourses of social and behaviour change for health promotion.  In order to address the increasing need for health information and more inclusive engagement on risk taking behaviours, health communication needs to explore the strategic utilisation of new media platforms at the global and local level.  With the introduction of social media platforms (such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp) there is urgency to explore how public, private and civil societies are utilizing digital media for health information and social engagement. 

The technological advances and immediate access to social media platforms has facilitated a global space for health communication and opportunities to communicate health related risk associated with various social, behavioural and environmental challenges. The advent of digital media platforms with increased participation of various audiences, inclusivity of community voices and opportunities for advancing social and behavioural change in health-related issues however is not void of critical challenges. Exploring the digital developments through social media and technological advances (such as mobile apps) and how it has been utilised for health information, health promotion and health seeking behaviors is now imperative. At the same time, what is the role, relevance and reliance on traditional and electronic media for health information also needs to be explored. How do various stakeholders manoeuvre in these multi media platforms also needs exploration.

This CFP will explore the role of digital media and various digital platforms in the promotion of health risks towards effective behaviour change; and how digital media portrays risk and impacts on health seeking behaviour.  The working group will specifically engage on issues of how digital media platforms are utilised to engage in health; specifically social and behavioural issues and how various audiences mitigate risk through effective risk communication; and how health communicators and information seekers negotiate with information on digital platforms vis-à-vis other media platforms?

Submissions should offer an interdisciplinary perspective to health and risk communication and seek to create an opportunity to unpack how the production of knowledge through a digital culture advances social and behaviour change communication in relation to key public health, development and environmental challenges. The working group is interested in facilitating interactions between practitioners, researchers and academics in order to increase understanding of this changing communicative landscape of health communication theory and practice for knowledge sharing/exchange. Abstracts can be submitted that reflect on the following topics, but not limited to:

  • Theoretical perspective of health communication for social change 
  • Virtual health promotion and health campaigns
  • Digital divide in the global/local context of health communication
  • Health journalism and digital media
  • Health policies and digital technologies
  • Technology and digitization of health communication
  • Digitization of (ill) health and power
  • New mediums of health information access  
  • Online mobilization by active social media users for health promotion 

Guidelines for abstracts

Abstracts submitted to the Health Communication Working Group should have between 300 and 500 words and must be submitted online via IAMCR's online submission platform. Abstracts submitted by email will not be accepted. 

It is expected that authors will submit only one (1) abstract. However, under no circumstances should there be more than two (2) abstracts bearing the name of the same author, either individually or as first author. No more than one (1) abstract can be submitted by an author to the Health Communication Working Group. Please note also that the same abstract or another version with minor variations in title or content must not be submitted to more than one section or working group. Any such submissions will be deemed to be in breach of the conference guidelines and will be rejected.

Proposals are accepted for both single papers and multi-paper sessions (the online conference equivalent of a panel in a face to face conference). Please note that there are special procedures for submitting multi-paper sessions. You can find the detailed procedures when submitting your abstract online in the abstract submission system.

If your abstract is accepted, you will need to submit your full conference paper (1,000 to 4,000 words) by 7 June 2021, in order to be included in the programme.

Evaluation Criteria

Submitted abstracts will generally be evaluated on the basis of:

  • Theoretical contribution
  • Methods
  • Quality of writing
  • Literature review
  • Relevance of the proposal to the work of the Section or Working Group
  • Originality and/or significance


We encourage submission of abstracts for individual papers and for multi-paper sessions in English.

The deadline to submit abstracts is 9 February 2021 at 23h59 UTC.

See important dates and deadlines to keep in mind

For further information about the conference contact nairobi2021 [at]

For further information about the Health Communication Working Group, its themes, submissions and multi-paper sessions please contact:

Co-Chair: SubbaRao M Gavaravarapu - [at]

Co-Chair: Yolanda Paul – yolandapaul [at]

Vice chair: Sinikka Torkkola - sinikka.torkkola [at]

Vice chair: Eliza Govender - Govendere1 [at]