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Public Health in the Headlines: How Does News Coverage Impact Health?

November 02, 2016 | Public Health Newswire

Media. It’s everywhere these days. So, it’s not surprising that it impacts our health and behaviors as well as our perception of serious public health problems.

Such influence was the topic of a Wednesday morning Annual Meeting session on “Media News Coverage of Health and Risk,” which began with a deeper look at how the media covers community violence and safety. Presenter Laura Nixon, of the Berkeley Media Studies Group, studied news coverage of community violence in California from 2013 to 2015.

She found that the kinds of community violence solutions represented in the media evolved over the years. For example, in 2013, policing was most commonly reported as a solution. But 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, she 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. That percentage jumped to 8 percent in 2014 and 14 percent in 2015.

Nixon also 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 social determinants of health.

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