7.5.2  Two-way communication

In this model the information flows from the sender to the receiver and back from receiver to the sender again in the other direction (Figure 7.8). Two-way communication is reciprocal, the communicant (receiver) becomes the communicator (sender) and the communicator (sender) in turn becomes a communicant (receiver). Most ordinary conversations are along the lines of this model (Figure 7.9). Two-way communication is usually more appropriate for problem-solving situations.

A diagram representing two-way communication.
Figure 7.8  Two-way communication
A woman and a health worker sit together in an office to talk.
Figure 7.9  In informal settings two-way communication between a health worker and people from the community is sometimes easier. (Photo: Ali Wyllie)
  • As a health worker, or just in normal life, you often have cause to have a conversation with people. Think about one recent conversation and look Table 7.2 below to see whether you agree with the advantages and disadvantages of this type of communication.

  • There are no right or wrong answers to this question, but this has been a chance to begin to assess the qualities of two-way communication that will be useful in your work.

Table 7.2  Advantages and disadvantages of two-way communication.


●  More audience participation

●  Learning is more democratic

●  Open to feedback

●  May influence behaviour change

●  Slower, takes more time

Box 7.4 summarises some key terms for two-way communication.

Box 7.4  Key terms for two-way communication

Sender: the originator of each message — this could be an individual, group or organisation.

Message: the idea being communicated.

Channel: the means by which a message travels from sender to receiver.

Receiver: the person for whom the communication is intended.

Effect: the change in the receiver’s knowledge, attitude or practice.

Feedback: telling what they have done well or how to improve. Two-way feedback means that members of the community can tell you what you communicated well and what didn’t work so well.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of a person’s weight, taking their height into account. Very low or very high BMI is a health risk.

  • Using the example of body mass index (BMI), note down possible examples for each component of two-way communication listed in the key terms above.

  • Possible examples:

    • The sender may be an individual or groups or organisations who are keen to help people to think about their BMI.
    • The message might be something like ‘check your body mass index’.
    • The channel could be verbal, for example during peer education. Printed materials or audiovisual channels could be used for other messages about BMI to wider audiences.
    • The receiver may be an individual, family or the whole community.
    • The effect will be the change in the receiver’s attitude, knowledge and practice.
    • Feedback should be positive when the desired change in knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) occurs — but will be negative when the desired change in knowledge, attitude and practice doesn’t occur.

7.5  Types of communication

Summary of Study Session 7