Researchers Find U.S. Media Keeps People Uneducated About Health Issues
January 10, 2009
"Blaming the media" is a catchphrase that is used in almost cliché-level proportions. But when it comes to health care, a new study indicates it may be appropriate to fault media coverage for a lack of public knowledge about health care policy.
According to a new report, "News about health occupies a relatively small amount of American news coverage across all platforms: 3.6 percent of news during 2007 and the first half of 2008."
In a list of most frequently covered topics, health came in eighth -- far above religion, education and celebrities, but below the economy, crime, foreign affairs and politics.
These results, while hardly thrilling, don't seem abysmal at first. Health gets more coverage than celebrities, after all, which seems like a victory in our current climate. But compounding the small amount of attention devoted to health, the breakdown within existing health coverage shows a tendency to focus on controversial or sensational aspects of health issues, leaving vital policy information behind.
Within the small percentage of health news, outlets focused 41.7 percent on specific diseases, 30.9 percent of public health issues, and 24.7 percent on actual health policy. This means that health policy news made up less than 1 percent of media coverage during the study’s time period.