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Christopher McKinley

Associate Professor, School of Communication and Media

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Dr. Christopher McKinley specializes in health communication. In particular, he examines the role that virtual (social media, websites) and face-to-face 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. His current research interests center on narrative persuasion as well as the influence of social media on health prevention behaviors.

Selected Publications:

McKinley, C. J., & Limbu, Y. (2020). Investigating Processes Linking Emotional Response to Impressions of Weight-loss Testimonials: The Role of Message Framing and Perceived Risk. Communication Studies, 71(5), 823-841.

McKinley, C. J., Limbu, Y. B., Gautam, R. K., Ahirwar, A. K., Dubey, P., & Jayachandran, C. (2018). Nutrition knowledge and diet: Exploring the influence of social and informational factors in an Indian adult population. American Journal of Health Education, 49, 312-325.

McKinley, C. J., & Limbu, Y. B., Jayachandran, C. N. (2017). The Influence of Statistical versus Exemplar Appeals on Indian Adults’ Health Intentions: An Investigation of Direct Effects and Intervening Persuasion Processes. Health Communication, 32, 427-437.

McKinley, C. J., Luo, Y., & Wright, P., & Kraus, A. (2016). Problem gambling messages on college counseling center websites: An over-time and cross-country comparison. Journal of Gambling Studies, 32, 307-325.

McKinley, C. J., Luo, Y., & Wright, P., & Kraus, A. (2015). Re-examining LGBT Resources on College Counseling Center Websites: An Over-time and Cross-country Analysis. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 43, 112-129.

McKinley, C. J., & Ruppel, E. (2014). Exploring how perceived threat and self-efficacy
contribute to college students’ use and perceptions of online mental health resources. Computers in Human Behavior, 34, 101-109.

McKinley, C. J., & Wright, P. (2014). Informational support and online information seeking: Examining the association between factors contributing to healthy eating behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 37, 107-116.

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.

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.

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 area coordinator for communication studies. The courses he teaches include, Introduction to Health Communication, E-Health Communication, Health and Mass Media, and Health Communication Theory. 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.