Exploring the Role of Social Support in Promoting Patient Participation in Health Care among Women with Breast Cancer

Health Communication, 36(13), 1581-1589.

Abstract: Scholars have adopted Street’s (2003) ecological model of communication in medical encounters to investigate the factors promoting patient participation in health care.  However, factors demonstrated in the ecological model were bounded in the context of medical care primarily focusing on health care providers and patients.  Social factors, such as patients’ relationships and supportive communication with others outside the context of health care remain relatively unexplored.  To expand the purview of our understanding of factors that influence patient participation, this research integrated social support literature into the research on physician-patient communication, and proposed a model which describes a process through which social support can enhance patient participation in health care.  The data analyzed in this study were a part of two larger clinical trials in which 661 women with breast cancer were recruited from three cancer institutions in the United States.  The results from structural equation modeling analysis from cross-sectional and longitudinal data provided strong evidence for the hypotheses predicting that perceived social support was positively associated with health information competence, which in turn fully mediated the association between social support and patient participation in health care.  Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Jeong-Yeob Han 

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