Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Technology and Media Studies

Committee Director

Kevin A. Moberly

Committee Member

Avi Santo

Committee Member

Daniel P. Richards

Committee Member

Alison R. Reed


This study examines whether online health communications targeting African Americans could be more effective by structuring the message in the format of African American jeremiad rhetoric, a culturally unique version of the American jeremiad literary form. Health disparities (also known as health inequality) persist among African Americans despite increased health knowledge, improved communication practices, and access to health facts online. The problem is systemic, and thus a predictable outcome that requires change in societal structures that produce and maintain inequality. Individual behavior changes to improve health is also necessary. Information alone does not change behavior. Altering environmental factors is also vital to achieving behavior change. Health communications researchers widely accept that culturally appropriate messaging is key to improving health literacy and therefore, positive behavior change leading to changes that improve health outcomes. Language and spirituality are key characteristics of African American culture, though “culture” is complex term, encompassing not only race and ethnicity, but such elements as one’s region, and generational affiliation. Faith can have a positive influence on health outcomes. Historically, African American jeremiad (also known as Afro American jeremiad) rhetoric has been successfully applied to communicate to African American mass audiences, inspiring positive behavior change to advocate for systemic and individual action to confront major national crisis plaguing the group. Applying Bolter and Grusin’s theory of remediation, Ortiz’s theory of neoculturation, and McGuire’s communication/persuasion model, the study concludes by way of an A/B Test experiment that the African American jeremiad form, applied as a linguistic and sociocultural approach to culturally competent online health communications, could potentially inspire positive behavior change that could lead to action toward systemic and personal health changes. The study takes an initial step toward applying this hypothesis to a website of a documentary film project focused on informing and inspiring a movement among African American to overcome health disparities. Recommendations for future research are offered.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).