Communication has been a consistent current running through many major health developments of recent years. And yet, despite the demonstrated promise of communication as a tool for improving public health, not enough has been done to date to capitalise upon its potential, particularly in the poorest parts of the world. Through a careful review of the evidence, this briefing offers a spirited case for why donors, practitioners and developing country governments need to pay more attention to the role of communication in tackling global health.The briefing finds that: Communication has been central to public health developments from Ebola to polio and from HIV to child survival.

While health policy officials recognise the importance of health communication, it often remains poorly funded, under-utilised and badly planned in public health programmes. Even when it does prioritise communication, public health programming often fails to reflect best practice around the role of social and behaviour change communications (SBCC).Progress has been stymied by the complexity of social and behaviour change communication, debates around “what counts” as evidence, and the learning and capacity-strengthening gaps within the health communication field. Donors should ensure that their staff are familiar with the health communication evidence base and lessons learned from past programmes, so that they are equipped to plan and evaluate proposals for new communication interventions effectively.