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School of Health Research

Erin Ash, Ph.D


Associate Professor
Department of Communication
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
Faculty Profile


Dr. Erin Ash (Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University) is an Associate Professor of Communication at Clemson University. Her research focuses on media psychology, with an emphasis on the cognitive and affective processes that influence individuals’ attitudes and beliefs about social inequality and support for policies aimed at alleviating these issues. Her work has studied media effects across a variety of contexts including news, interactive media, film/entertainment, and sport. Dr. Ash’s current research agenda focuses on health-related media messages. She has examined the content of media coverage of health disparities, as well as the impact of message features on issue perceptions and policy support related to health equity. She also conducts research on communication about sexual health, particularly in the context of pregnancy prevention. That work has examined sexual health communication in a variety of contexts, including non-profit communication strategies, stigma communication, narrative effects, and misinformation. She is interested in bridging these strands of research in future studies that examine health disparities in adolescent and young adult sexual health and unplanned pregnancy.

How their research is transforming health care

Media messages about health are an important consideration in promoting attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that impact a multitude of health-related outcomes at the societal and individual levels. At the societal level, previous research has consistently demonstrated the role media play in shaping public perception of inequalities, including those related to health. My research has examined how the media attributed responsibility for health disparities to structural and individual factors in the context of COVID-19. In another study, I tested the effects of using different types of examples to illustrate maternal health disparities and their effects on perceived issue severity and support for equity-focused policy. Understanding media message processing is also important at the level of individual health. Health-focused media and campaigns have intended and unintended effects that I have sought to examine, for example, in my research on pregnancy prevention message effectiveness and stigma. Moreover, incidental health information exposure, such as in entertainment programming or on social media, have important implications for health related attitudes and behaviors, which my research also seeks to address. To that end, I am currently leading a large-scale content analysis of (mis)information claims about contraception on the social media platform TikTok. I will present the findings of the study and offer strategies to promote media literacy at Summer Institute, the annual conference of FactForward, a leading non-profit organization focused on adolescent sexual and reproductive health in South Carolina in Summer 2024.

Health research keywords

Health communication, message effects, health disparities, sexual and reproductive health, stigma

College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences | 116 Edwards Hall