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Faculty series highlights safe sex, health warnings

By Johnathan Mastrogiovanni

The final presentation in the semester’s Faculty Lecture Series took place in Mayo Concert Hall on Friday, Nov. 8.

Yachao Li, a professor in the communication and public health department, spearheaded the talk, “Communicating Health: From Interpersonal Health Conversations to Public Health Messages,” with a PSA on safe sex and the effectiveness of discouraging labels placed on packs of cigarettes.

Li began with outlining one of his many research projects in which 193 young adults between ages 18 and 24 were recruited into having hypothetical conversations with trained actors. While the researchers tasked the young adults with insisting on using a condom before engaging in intercourse, the actors had to convince the participants to forego the use of a condom.
The purpose of the study was to exemplify what kind of language is most effective in a scenario such as this.

Li even repeated some of the phrases he found to be common with those pressuring their partners in this type of situation, such as, “I’ll just put the tip in,” or, “I want to feel all of you,” often to hushed laughter and comments from the students.

Li stressed the benefits of using language that imparts a mutual responsibility and interest for both parties involved. He said that simple tailoring of language, such as utilizing the word “we,” can be much more effective defusing and solving tense moments like the ones played out in the study.
Li then transitioned from interpersonal health to the public health portion of this talk. He discussed the types of warning labels on packs of cigarettes and which have been deemed the most effective. 

According to Li, approximately 34.3 million people in the U.S. are smokers and 480,000 of them die every year.

“Over $300 billion is spent in annual medical costs for smoking-related cases,” Li said.The three types of labels included text-only warnings, low-emotion warnings — which typically includes a text warning, as well as a fairly tame picture depicting the dangers of smoking, such as a man in a hospital bed — and high emotion-warning labels, which have a more graphic depiction of one of the many side effects that stem from smoking, such as a picture of deteriorated lungs. 

However, before divulging that high-emotion warnings are more effective than low-emotion warnings or text-only warnings, Li asked attendants to use their phones to participate in a game of Kahoot, a tool typically utilized by teachers for in-class activities.

The students voted on how effective they believed each warning was and yielded the results Li had anticipated, as they believed the text-only warnings to be fairly ineffective, with the low-emotion warnings fairing slightly better and the high-emotion ones being seen as much better suited for discouraging people from buying cigarettes compared to the others.


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