Online Visual & Digital Health Communication Graduate Certificate
Boston University’s online Graduate Certificate in Visual & Digital Health Communication is 16-credit course of study that examines the impact of the communication technology revolution on the field of health marketing and outreach, and prepares graduates for careers in this rapidly changing and growing industry through the development of visual and digital storytelling tools vital to modern messaging. It can be completed in less than a year.
The next decade will be a transformative one for healthcare. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2030 aging baby boomers will outnumber children for the first time. By 2034, more than 77 million (one in five residents) will be age 65 or older. In addition to this predicted demand for healthcare needs, an increase in chronic lifestyle diseases—diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, cancer, dementia, and other stress-related disorders—is helping drive expansion of the wellness industry, the value of which is poised to grow by $1,299.8 billion through 2024, according to a report by Technavio.
Digital technology will continue to have an impact on healthcare, with venture funding for health tech innovators at $14 billion in 2020 and expected to increase, according to Deloitte. The same can be said of social media. According to a report by Hootsuite and We Are Social, the number of active social media users is in the billions—and growing exponentially. With more than half the world’s population using social media, and with such rapid and continued expansion, it is essential to harness the power of this tool in your healthcare marketing and communication efforts.
Savvy communicators, marketers, and coverage providers recognize the importance of effective storytelling and strategic social media practices in capturing the engagement and participation of patients, consumers, or desired target audiences. How those audiences and consumers experience initiatives through social media, websites, mobile apps, videos, and branded content can make or break the success of an otherwise well-defined health campaign or project.
In the Visual & Digital Health Communication certificate program’s required courses, students will learn the fundamental principles of design and how to apply them to the creation of powerful health education and delivery application tools, such as infographics, data visualization graphics, videos, websites, mobile apps, and branded content. Students will also examine how social media is used in health care and why using it effectively has become a necessary skill for many health care professionals.
Students who complete the Graduate Certificate in Visual & Digital Health Communication will be able to demonstrate:
- Knowledge of the value and significance of traditional, social, and emerging digital media practice in the health communication field.
- The ability to design communication strategies and methods that employ digital and visual information to influence audiences or affect change on health-related topics and issues.
- Expertise in the role that communication—including digital and visual content—plays in the health care industry.
- The capacity to analyze, synthesize, interpret, and present health and scientific information for public consumption using clear and concise messaging.
- Proficiency in creating digital images and visual tools—including infographics, branded content, video, data visualization graphics, webpage, and mobile page design—that purposely and ethically help bridge digital divides in health education and comprehension.
Awards & Accreditations
The course Visual Communication in the Digital Health Age (MET HC 762) received the 2017 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Teaching & Learning—a global honor recognizing excellence in delivering students a flexible, innovative online learning experience.
Why Choose BU’s Graduate Certificate in Health Communication?
- Four-course certificate in Visual & Digital Health Communication examines the impact of the communication technology revolution on the field of health marketing and communication and prepares graduates for a career in this rapidly changing field.
- BU’s program is unique, offered 100% online with asynchronous learning, while integrating communication and health care content in each course.
- The certificate is ideal for those who wish to focus more on the continuing trends in visual communication and the strategic use of social media in health communication, but don’t want or need to commit to a full master’s degree program.
- Students in the certificate program may transfer up to 16 credits toward BU’s online Master of Science in Health Communication. In addition, students can pair the Graduate Certificate in Visual & Digital Health Communication with the Graduate Certificate in Foundations of Health Communication to earn the Master’s in Health Communication with a concentration in Visual & Digital Health Communication.
Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Managers
6% increase in jobs through 2029
$141,490 median annual pay in 2020
Public Relations Specialists
7% increase in jobs through 2029
$62,810 median annual pay in 2020
Medical and Health Services Managers
32% increase in jobs through 2029
$104,280 median annual pay in 2020
Health Educators and Community Health Workers
13% increase in jobs through 2029
$48,140 median annual pay in 2020
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (last modified April 9, 2021)
The impact of digital technology in healthcare will continue to reverberate, with venture funding for health tech innovators at $14 billion in 2020 and expected to increase.—Deloitte, Trends in health tech investments (February 26, 2021)
Boston University Metropolitan College (MET) offers competitive tuition rates that meet the needs of part-time students seeking an affordable education. These rates are substantially lower than those of the traditional, full-time residential programs yet provide access to the same high-quality BU education. To learn more about current tuition rates, visit the MET website.
Comprehensive financial assistance services are available at MET, including scholarships, graduate loans, and payment plans. There is no cost to apply for financial assistance, and you may qualify for a student loan regardless of your income. Learn more.
Boston University’s Graduate Certificate in Visual & Digital Health Communication consists of four required online courses (16 credits).
(Four courses/16 credits)
Minimum passing grade for a course in the graduate certificate program is B– (2.7), but an average grade of B (3.0) must be maintained to be in good academic standing and satisfy certificate requirements.
METHC762 Visual Communication in the Digital Health Age
Over the past two decades, the power of visuals in learning and retention has been increasingly recognized -- attributing as much as 80% of retention to information that is visually communicated. In a recent study, 85% of working professionals agreed that creative thinking is critical for problem solving in their career, and 71% say creative thinking should be taught as a course, like math and science. The efficacy of the use of visual symbols has also been recognized for bridging language barriers in health care settings. This course provides health communication professionals the fundamental principles of design and how these relate to effective communication, particularly in health education and delivery applications. Course lectures and resources will guide students from visual design theory, straight through content creation and measuring effectiveness of visual messaging. Students will explore various media and tools used to create digital images and get hands-on practice in the image editing process. Topics include conceptual design, critical thinking in the creation of practical design, how design relates to industry, human perception and the visual process, and the use of symbols for immediacy and to bridge cultural and literacy divides. In addition to exploring popular digital vehicles for visual storytelling, such as infographics, data visualization, video and mobile, the course will also present real- world challenges, such as ethics and regulations in digital communications, as well as business processes. Course requires access to a smartphone with camera and video capability or a digital camera/video. [4 credits]
METHC763 Social Media Strategies and Tactics for Healthcare
The course examines how healthcare organizations are tapping the power of social media to listen, learn, engage and act. This course helps students understand the power and importance of this fundamental shift in communication, and how savvy health care organizations are turning this shift into a strategic advantage. Together, we will examine the impact of the communication technology revolution on the field of health marketing and communication. Through extensive readings, case studies, project assignments, hands-on use of social media and weekly discussions, students will explore the extraordinary health communication challenges and opportunities driven by social media -- as well as the new and daunting problems and threats social media present to healthcare organizations. Students will learn how social media is used in health care and why using it effectively and efficiently has become a necessary skill for many health care professionals. As part of this course, students have the opportunity to earn the Mayo-Hootsuite Social Media Basics Certification, and participate in the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network community. [4 credits]
Plus two chosen from the following:
METHC559 Health Communication Principles and Strategies
This foundational course examines and bridges the theory and practice of interpersonal, organizational, mass communication, and digital media relevant to the professional communicator and health practitioner alike. It reviews strategies of persuasion, the relationship between attitudes and health behavior through the lifespan, and the changing nature of health, illness and health delivery in local and global arenas. Students consider how the Social Determinants of Health (where we live, learn, work and play) impact health behaviors and outcomes for diverse populations. Starting with the history of health communication, students gain insight into the evolution of this emerging discipline, from public health education to its broader place in the marketing mix through recent decades. Guided by case studies, research and analysis, students explore the health communication cycle and strategic planning process using frames, channels and tools best suited for reaching behavioral, social, and organizational objectives. The course shifts from theoretical to practical, giving students hands-on experience developing a strategic health communication campaign that considers culture, age, gender and health literacy, to effectively -- and measurably -- influence health outcomes for its intended audience. [4 credits]
METHC560 Research Methods for Health Communication
There is a growing demand for professionals with the skills to collect, analyze and interpret data. This course prepares students with essential knowledge of primary research methods, and how to apply them -- accurately and ethically -- to the practice of health communication. Beginning with the basics of research design and evaluation, the course progresses through qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods, survey design, descriptive statistics, focus groups and other approaches, with the goal of helping health communication professionals create meaningful, data- driven strategies, stories and content. Students will practice analyzing, interpreting and writing about various health studies presented throughout the course. Also emphasized is the application of research to advertising messaging and public relations strategies. [4 credits]
METHC561 Writing for Health
Clear and concise writing is arguably the most fundamental tool in the health communicator's toolbox. Effectively communicating knowledge, methods, language and terminology from the complex fields of health, science and medicine -- and writing about them plainly -- requires an advanced command of language, and proficient use of health literacy principles. If writing does not come naturally to you, this course will introduce you to those health literacy principles, as well as formats and processes for developing materials with confidence. If you're a more experienced writer, get ready to hone your skills using best practices for creating various kinds of health content. Throughout the course you'll analyze different audience needs and refine writing strategies, style, voice, and vocabulary to accommodate each audience. You'll also practice and further develop essential writing qualities, including clarity and brevity, alongside advanced grammar, sentence structure and writing mechanics. Along the way you'll practice writing, revising, and editing clear, accurate, audience-appropriate content that includes: * Journalistic news reporting * A print brochure to educate patients * Narrative storytelling through a feature story * Writing your own health blog * Scriptwriting a public service announcement for television * Social media writing to promote your content [4 credits]
METHC652 Biology of Disease
This course, designed for students who have little or no background in the biological sciences, provides a foundation in the biological mechanisms and principles underlying major health problems. Selected health problems are explored from a biological perspective in order to provide fundamental information about infectious and non-infectious agents of disease, disease transmission, biological defense mechanisms, co-evolution of man and microbes, the effects of nutritional deficiency and excess, effects of respiratory exposures, the biology of cancer, aging, and other topics. Each student completing this course should be able to knowledgeably participate in a discussion of related health problems with a basic understanding of the terminology, and the underlying biological mechanisms. [4 credits]
METHC655 Healthcare Marketing Strategies
This course provides an in-depth understanding of the essential concepts of marketing and their application to health care. Students gain a working knowledge of marketing tools (such as pricing, promotion, channels, consumer behavior, brand equity, and segmentation) and how to use them. Students build practical applied skills in analyzing marketing problems and developing marketing programs and strategies, with particular attention to health care and its organizational structures, financing, technologies, market demands, laws, and regulations. Students also expand their understanding of the differences and similarities between marketing in for- profit and not-for-profit health care organizations, and they increase their appreciation of the role of data collection, analysis, interpretation, and management in marketing decisions. [4 credits]
METHC656 Healthcare Public Relations
Provides an overview of the professional principles and practices in public relations for corporate, governmental, agency and nonprofit organizations. Includes history, organization, and scope of the field; its roots in social science; types of campaigns and programs; and professional ethics. Theories, strategies, and tactics in current practice emphasized and applied to health communication. Explores opportunities and requirements for work in the field. Students will learn to apply the basic public relations campaign planning model and examine public relations specialty practice areas including media relations, community relations, government relations, crisis communication, investor relations and employee communication. [4 credits]
METHC658 Media Relations for Healthcare
Students learn publicity techniques used in mass media communication, including working with daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, radio, television, film and online media. The course will examine the principles and practices of working with mass media ""gatekeepers"" to accomplish campaign objectives as well as strategies and tactics for communicating directly with audiences through new media. Students will develop knowledge and skills related to the production and use of media relations tools with a focus on health communication. Case studies will be employed to understand the challenges and opportunities inherent in working with mass media as well as the special demands and practices associated with crisis communication. The course will also explore the roles of interactive and social media. [4 credits]
METHC750 The American Health Care System for Health Communicators
A vital component of the Health Communication curriculum, this course explores the health care system in terms of 1) communication within organizations, resources, and processes that constitute structure and operations; 2) relationships among stakeholders that shape it; and 3) resulting policies that impact system performance and influence the future of health care. Given the complexity and dynamics of the health care environment, an understanding of related issues at all levels is essential for effective communication and prevention of error within health care organizations. Without it, organizations must react defensively to environmental and political threats, often at the expense of patient safety and well-being; with it, organizations can act strategically to maximize growth opportunities and anticipate those forces that influence policy. The course draws upon multiple perspectives, including health communication in medicine and public health, health management (access, quality, and cost), politics, healthcare ethics, law, and the complexities of cross- cultural and psychosocial considerations within today's healthcare system. [4 credits]
METHC751 Introduction to Epidemiology for Health Communicators
This course is recommended for students who are not Epidemiology concentrators. The purpose of this course is to introduce the basic principles and methods of epidemiology and demonstrate their applicability in the field of public health. A further objective is to provide an introduction to the basic skills needed to critically interpret the epidemiologic literature relevant to public health professionals. [4 credits]
MET prioritizes the review and admission of applications submitted earlier in the rolling admission process. You are encouraged to submit your application as soon as possible and no later than the priority application deadlines for each term.
Applicants must have an earned bachelor’s degree, in any field of study, from a regionally accredited college/university (or the international equivalent) prior to enrollment at Metropolitan College. The following materials are required for a complete application:
Lecturer and Program Director, Health Communication
Digital Content Strategist, Consultant
MS, Boston University; BA, University of Oklahoma
Felipe Agudelo Acevedo
Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health, Simmons University
EdD, DePaul University; MPH, National School of Public Health, Universidad de Antioquía, Colombia; BEng, Universidad de Antioquía, Colombia
Lecturer, Boston University College of Communication and Metropolitan College
Video Technologies Analyst, Forrester Research
BS, Boston University
Lecturer and Program Facilitator Lecturer Senior Lecturer, Boston University College of Communication Clinical Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health Lecturer Academic Advisor Lecturer and Program Facilitator Academic Advisor Lecturer and Program Facilitator Clinical Associate Professor, Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health
Digital Marketing Strategist, Strategic Communications Consultant
MS, Boston University; BA, Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Health Care Marketing Executive, Choiceplex
MBA, University of Chicago Booth School of Business; MS, BS, University of Illinois, Urbana
MA, University of Connecticut; BA, Smith College
PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; MPH, Harvard School of Public Health; BA, Clark University
Public Health Analyst, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
MS, Boston University; BA, Howard University
Associate Professor of Public Relations, Boston University College of Communication
MEd, Boston University; BA, University of Massachusetts
Health Care Marketing and Social Media Consultant
MS, Boston University; MBA, University of Chicago; BS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Lecturer, Boston University College of Communication
EdD, MEd, Boston University
Director of Communications, The Spaulding Rehabilitation Network & Partners Continuing Care
MS, Boston University; BA, Northeastern University
Jean M. van Seventer
VMD, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine; BS, Stanford University
Lecturer and Program Facilitator
Senior Lecturer, Boston University College of Communication
Clinical Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health
Lecturer and Program Facilitator
Lecturer and Program Facilitator
Clinical Associate Professor, Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health
To learn more or to contact an enrollment advisor before you get started, request information using the button below and tell us a little about yourself. Someone will be in touch to answer any questions you may have about the program and detail the next steps in earning your degree. You can also start your application or register for a course at Metropolitan College.