Magazine article The Nation's Health

Media Coverage Affects How Readers View, Act on Public Health Issues

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Media Coverage Affects How Readers View, Act on Public Health Issues

Article excerpt

FROM TWITTER FEEDS to newspaper reporting, how health issues are framed in the media can have a significant impact on people's health behavior as well as on raising awareness about serious health threats, according to research presented at APHA's 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver.

During a session devoted to the impact of health reporting and media exposure, researchers discussed how coverage of priority public health issues, such as violence and suicide, has shifted over the years and its impact on people's behavior. APHA member Laura Nixon, MPH, a media researcher at the Berkeley Media Studies Group, examined news coverage of community violence in California from 2013 to 2015, finding that the kinds of community violence solutions represented in the media have evolved.

For example, Nixon reported that in 2013, policing was most commonly reported as a solution to community violence, while in 2014 and 2015, community prevention programs became the top solution cited in media coverage. Other solutions often covered in 2015 included gun control and challenging stereotypes about young men of color.

On the topic of race and police violence, Nixon reported that in 2013, 4 percent of articles studied discussed race, with that percentage jumping to 18 percent in 2014 and 33 percent in 2015. Also in 2013, just 1 percent of articles studied discussed police violence, jumping to 8 percent in 2014 and 14 percent in 2015.

Nixon noted that during the study period, media stories about community violence and safety were increasingly framed through a lens of "safety from racial profiling" and the impact of social determinants of health. Based on her findings, which were outlined in the report "Changing the Discourse About Community Violence," Nixon called on advocates to talk about prevention when journalists ask about community violence, use media opinion spaces proactively and build relationships with media professionals. …

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