Faculty Spotlight

Nancy Grant Harrington, PhD, is a Professor of Communication, Director of the Health Communication Research Collaborative, and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Communication and Information. She also maintains an academic appointment in the School of Public Health and is a faculty associate of the multidisciplinary Center on Drug and Alcohol Research. She has been involved in research both on local and national levels, receiving funding from the National Cancer Institute, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and other institutions. She dedicates much of her research to message design, cost of care conversations, and preventing financial toxicity in healthcare. She uses her background in communications as a gateway to improving access to quality healthcare and relaying that message to the public—a skill that is highly valued as a founding affiliate of the Center for Healthy Equity Transformation (CHET) here at the University of Kentucky.

The expertise Dr. Harrington brings to CHET stems from her goal to well represent the field of communications within the field of public health. “People don’t often think of communications when they think of public health, but it is an absolutely vital aspect to the field realizing its full potential,” Dr. Harrington says.

Dr. Harrington has been interested in communications and health equity since her experiences in college. She reflects that, “Any kind of equity is crucial to our basic human rights. Not realizing equity is unfair to the fortunate individuals in our society as well because it prevents us from making our country better.” Dr. Harrington is an advocate for equality in regard to access, treatment, and all other aspects involved in healthcare. Her work to open conversations about cost of care between doctors and patients is proof of her commitment to promote a healthy society.

In regard to addressing health disparities and realizing the vision of CHET, Dr. Harrington suggests that CHET’s faculty members go out into the local communities and discuss some of their research. She says that this could be a great way to educate the public on ways to improve their health and take charge of their medical destiny, while also learning from the community to find ways to better suit their needs. Like other CHET founding affiliates, Dr. Harrington believes that community outreach is absolutely essential when trying to make a positive impact on the local population’s health.

Dr. Harrington believes that one of the most meaningful connections she has made during her career has been with individuals in the fields of nursing and pharmacy, with whom she has been working on developing an intervention for community based pharmacy to decrease tobacco use. She says that, “Community pharmacies are a totally undertapped resource, and we want to scale it up.”

According to Dr. Harrington, “CHET institutionalizes goals and brings together resources that will inevitably promote the wellbeing of the nation and allow for progress to be made in the field of healthcare and healthcare interventions.” Dr. Harrington hopes to assist CHET by providing insight from the communications field, collaborating with other public health specialists and champions of CHET, and offering guidance on how to help CHET realize its vision of achieving health equity by combatting health disparities in partnership with those most impacted by them.

Interview and transcription by Hannah Yeager