Background: Americans remain under-informed about cancer and other health disparities and the social determinants of health (SDH). The news media may be contributing to this knowledge deficit, whether by discussing these issues narrowly or ignoring them altogether. Because local media are particularly important in influencing public opinion and support for public policies, this study examines the prevalence and framing of disparities/SDH in local mainstream and ethnic print news.
Methods: We conducted a multi-method content analysis of local mainstream (English language) and ethnic (Spanish language) print news in two lower income cities in New England with substantial racial/ethnic minority populations. After establishing intercoder reliability (κ = 0.63–0.88), coders reviewed the primary English and Spanish language newspaper in each city, identifying both disparities and non-disparities health stories published between February 2010 and January 2011.
Results: Local print news coverage of cancer and other health disparities was rare. Of 650 health stories published across four newspapers during the one-year study period, only 21 (3.2%) discussed disparities/SDH. Although some stories identified causes of and solutions for disparities, these were often framed in individual (e.g., poor dietary habits) rather than social contextual terms (e.g., lack of food availability/affordability). Cancer and other health stories routinely missed opportunities to discuss disparities/SDH.
Conclusion: Local mainstream and ethnic media may be ideal targets for multilevel interventions designed to address cancer and other health inequalities.
Impact: By increasing media attention to and framing of health disparities, we may observe important downstream effects on public opinion and support for structural solutions to disparities, particularly at the local level. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 25(4); 603–12. ©2016 AACR.
See all articles in this CEBP Focus section, “Multilevel Approaches to Addressing Cancer Health Disparities.”
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention Online (http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received December 11, 2015.
- Revision received January 28, 2016.
- Accepted February 9, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.