Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

Philosophy BA


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Kathryn Anthony, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Edgar Simpson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sabine Heinhorst, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Communication Studies


While health campaigns often convey that health-related behaviors are the primary causes of preventable illnesses, they ignore the strong relationship between social determinants of health (SDH) and health outcomes (Braveman & Gottlieb, 2014). Ignoring non-behavioral factors in health communication poses both practical and ethical concerns for people with negative health outcomes, as health is linked to many “uncontrollable” factors, including income, education, and employment (Guttman & Ressler, 2001). Several social and environmental factors are linked to covid-19 exposure risk, including neighborhood environment, housing conditions, and occupation (CDC, 2022). Given the associations between causal beliefs about health and policy support, experts encourage health communicators to emphasize SDH in public health address (Barry et al., 2012). Several studies demonstrate that emphasizing social factors of illnesses, such as type-II diabetes or obesity, can increase societal causal attributions for health, and in turn, health-related policy support (Gollust et al., 2009; Niederdeppe et al., 2014; Niederdeppe et al., 2011). Given the need for messages that provide understanding of the complex determination of covid-19 risks and outcomes, this study examines how emphasis on socio-economic factors relating to covid impact causal attributions of covid and covid-related policy support.

Keywords: message design, health communication, attribution theory, social determinants of health, narrative persuasion, framing,