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Dr. Juwon Hwang

School of Media and Strategic Communications


Juwon Hwang

Dr. Juwon Hwang is an assistant professor in the School of Media and Strategic Communications. She came to OSU, after completing her Ph.D. in Health Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a cluster of five other faculty members whose research is in all different disciplines, but their research goals are all related to mitigating the effects of pandemics.


As a social scientist, Dr. Hwang is committed to examining factors that improve or impair mental health during crises and to developing messages that public health organizations can adopt to persuade individuals to better respond to pandemics.


As a way of alleviating a variety of mental ill-being people may face during the pandemic, Dr. Hwang focuses on social support and social connectedness. Social support, as a supportive resource obtained by individuals from others or society, is an important factor affecting individual mental health and can help individuals cope with the crisis in life. Thus, her research applies emerging communication technologies to support mental health of individuals, especially underrepresented populations such as older adults, racial/ethical minorities, and people with substance use disorders. She is especially interested in developing online social support communities that can allow ongoing access to strong social support. She also focuses on information seeking behaviors as one of the factors that affect individual mental distress such as depression, anxiety, and stress. Although several theories posit that information seeking is related to better psychological health, this logic may not apply to a pandemic like COVID-19. Given uncertainty inherent to the novel virus, she expected that information seeking about COVID-19 would be positively associated with emotional distress, which was supported by her research findings.


Another line of her research focuses on developing, implementing, and testing the effectiveness of targeted messages that is designed to address vaccine hesitancy of diverse populations including racial/ethnic minorities. She served as a co-PI for the Vaccine Confidence Fund (VCF) funded project, for which her research team designed culturally tailored narratives regarding the COVID-19 vaccine for Hispanics, and then tested its effect on vaccine hesitancy among Hispanics. Before designing targeted messages, her research team conducted in-depth interviews with Hispanic migrants and examined Hispanics’ discourse about COVID-19 through machine learning analysis on Facebook. They then used the organically emergent narrative themes to craft messages promoting vaccine confidence and experimentally tested them through an online experimental survey. Their findings revealed that culturally tailored messages significantly increased COVID-19 vaccine confidence relative to generic messaging among Hispanic migrants.


Dr. Hwang’s research and expertise in vaccine communication predate the COVID-19 pandemic. Her research centers on vaccine hesitancy in contexts such as H1N1, seasonal influenza, and childhood vaccination. She examines conditions, under which vaccine hesitancy is exacerbated, and designs vaccine campaigns that public health agencies can use to increase vaccine uptake rates.


Dr. Hwang has over 20 peer-reviewed articles published in such prestigious journals as Journal of Health Communication, Health Communication, Journal of Medical Internet Research, Plos one, Social Media + Society, and International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.


Dr. Hwang is also a passionate educator. She is enthusiastic about bringing in social issues as real-life examples with an inclusive angle when teaching courses in Strategic Communication. She will develop and teach a new undergraduate course, Health Communication, in fall 2023.




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