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WVU student using trip abroad to further health campaign research

West Virginia University student Kylie Wilson is using her research on health campaigns to improve the lives of individuals who suffer from mental illness.

Kylie Wilson
Kylie Wilson

A Knoxville, Illinois, native, Wilson is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies. Her research focuses on health communication and media effects, where she studies how health communication works in conjunction with media to influence behavior changes.

During WVU’s 2019 spring recess, Wilson traveled abroad to Japan, where she gathered data on Japanese health campaigns and advertisements. She plans to compare this data to information she’s collecting on American health campaigns. She is traveling to Washington, D.C. later this month to collect this data to compare health campaigns between America and Japan.

Because American media culture is heavily influenced by Japanese media culture, Wilson wants to determine if health campaigns follow suit. The comparative content analysis will examine print health campaigns created for public consumption and located in public spaces. Campaigns from Japan and D.C. will be examined for emergent themes, commonalities and differences.

Wilson has already identified several differences in how health is communicated by the media in each country.  

It is unsafe to enter at this gate.
A safety message about entering the building,

this sign tells individuals it is unsafe to enter at this gate.

“In America we see commercials or advertisements with actors. But in Japan, it’s character focused. For example, some advertisements feature a cute bear,” she said. “They’re very cartoon-like, which is different from what we’ve observed in the U.S. Here, the more cartoon-like something is, the less we perceive it to be real or scary or possibly a threat.”

Wilson credits her passion for health communication and experiences to her faculty mentors.

“My professors, Jaime Banks and Nicholas Bowman, presented the study abroad opportunity,” she said. “They came to me with the idea about studying the two cultures in a comparative analysis. I think was the best thing I could have done.”

Wilson hopes to use her research and education to reduce stigmas around mental health and educating individuals who may be uninformed. She personally understands the challenges of dealing with mental illness.

“My brother struggles with severe anxiety. He’s been diagnosed as bipolar. I didn’t understand until I started feeling higher levels of anxiety and stress. I thought to myself, ‘If I’m feeling this, and I know my brother is feeling this, then there could be several millions of other people probably feeling these same emotions,’” Wilson said. “If I can help get them resources or help them have hope through my research, then that’s what I want to do. I want to help those people.”

Wilson is currently completing an internship at NIOSH with communication studies alumna and Health Communications Specialist Sydney Webb.

“Our students benefit from having travel abroad experiences as well as by doing research that is relevant and meaningful to them,” said Matthew Martin, chair of the Department of Communication Studies. “Wilson, and others, learn as much or more from these experiences as they do in the classroom.”