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Christopher McKinley

Associate Professor, School of Communication and Media

Morehead Hall 103
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Dr. Christopher McKinley specializes in health communication and media effects. In particular, he examines the role that messages play in shaping individual’s health perceptions and behaviors. Dr. McKinley’s research addresses important public health issues, including, but not limited to, binge drinking, childhood obesity, disordered eating habits, and mental health concerns. His research has been published in Health Communication, Journal of Health Communication, and Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Dr. McKinley is currently involved in multiple projects, including, a) research assessing the relationship between news coverage, presidential rhetoric, and public support for health care reform, and b) an examination of the nature and prevalence of mental health messages provided on U.S. and U.K. college counseling center websites.

Selected Publications:

McKinley, C. J., & Ruppel, E. (in press). Examining psychosocial factors that contribute to online mental health information seeking among college students. Computers in
Human Behavior.

McKinley, C. J., Mastro, D. E., & Warber, K. M. (in press). Social identity theory as a framework for understanding the effects of exposure to positive media images of self and other on intergroup outcomes. International Journal of Communication.

McKinley, C. J. (2013). Applying a distress-deterring approach to assess how emotional support predicts perceived stress and stress-related coping response. Southern Communication Journal, 78, 387-404.

McKinley, C. J. & Perino, C. (2013). Examining communication competence as a contributing
factor in health care workers’ job satisfaction and tendency to report errors. Journal of
Communication in Healthcare, 6, 158-165.

McKinley, C. J. (2013). Re-examining the link between cultivation factors and viewer involvement: Investigating viewing amount as a catalyst for the transportation process. Communication Studies, 64, 66-85.

McKinley, C. J., & Wright, P. (2012). Examining the presence of problem gambling awareness messages on college counseling center websites. Health Communication, 27, 98-106.

McKinley, C., & Fahmy, S. (2011). Passing the ‘breakfast test’: Exploring the effects of varying degrees of graphicness of war photography in the new media environment. Visual Communication Quarterly, 18, 70-83.

Wright, P., & McKinley, C. J. (2011). Mental health resources for LGBT collegians: A content analysis of college counseling center websites. Journal of Homosexuality, 58, 138-147.

Wright, P., & McKinley, C. J. (2010). Services and information for sexually compulsive students on college counseling center websites. Results from a national sample. Journal of Health Communication, 15, 665-678.

McKinley, C. J. (2009). Investigating the Influence of Threat Appraisals and Social Support on Healthy Eating Behavior and Drive for Thinness. Health Communication, 24, 735-745.


Dr. McKinley serves as the program coordinator for the health communication concentration. The courses he teaches include, Introduction to Health Communication, E-Health Communication, Health and Mass Media, and Planning and Implementing Health Campaigns. The aim of these courses is for students to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become health communication specialists, health advocates, and/or health marketing professionals.

Current courses taught:

E-Health Communication (CMST-360)
Description: This course examines the importance of new media technologies as both a tool for citizens to manage their health and for the health care industry to promote products and services. The class examines how users perceive online health information as well as the factors that motivate online health seeking behavior. In addition, students will explore the various health benefits and limitations of social media, online support groups, health blogs, and mobile health technologies. Finally, students will evaluate and critique the web marketing strategies used by health care organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and other companies involved in the health industry. Overall, students will learn how to maximize technology to foster greater health education and to increase consumer awareness of different health care options.

Health Communication Theory (CMST-260)
Description: This course is designed for students to connect theory, which is the backbone of any effective health message, to practical real-world health issues. It is my hope that students will emerge from this experience as more critical consumers of health information and use the tools developed in this class as a building block for their careers as communication professionals (health or otherwise). ‘Theory’ will serve as the platform for researching how various forms of media, patient-physician interactions, and close relationships influence individual’s health beliefs and behaviors. Physical and mental health issues such as safe-sex, binge drinking, childhood obesity, cancer, stress, depression, and gambling addiction will be addressed within these contexts. This course examines the dominant health models, communication theories, and psychosocial concepts that have been applied to the understanding of individual and societal health. In particular, this course will address how these theories/models serve as a foundation for explaining why various forms of communication serve to influence and shape our health perceptions and behaviors.