Table 5.

Missed opportunities for discussing health disparities/SDH: Three case exemplars

Newspaper, dateStory synopsisMissed opportunitiesPotential strategies to address disparities/SDH
City B mainstream paper, June 2010
  • Describes an April 2010 report from President's Cancer Panel on potential for environmental contaminants to cause cancer

  • Report suggests that percentage of cancers caused by environmental exposures has been vastly underestimated, and raises concerns about number of chemicals entering market each year without any safety testing requirement

  • Although report underscores fact that disadvantaged populations are at greater risk of exposure, story makes no mention of disparities

    • ○ Disadvantaged populations more likely to work in occupations with greater levels of exposure to environmental contaminants (e.g., mining, construction, manufacturing, certain service sector occupations; ref. 51)

    • ○ Disadvantaged populations also more likely to live in areas with greater contamination (e.g., “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana and Mississippi, with high concentrations of both chemical plants/oil refineries and poor populations with limited health care access; ref. 51)

  • Story author could have mentioned disproportionate exposure risks, given that substantial populations in City B work in such occupations

  • Local CBOs in City B are working to reduce environmental toxics in their communities, and thus could have served as important sources for story

City A ethnic paper, April 2010
  • Describes community's participation in “Kick Butts Day,” an initiative sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids that encourages youth to speak out against tobacco use (a leading cause of cancer and cancer deaths)

  • During local event, students learned about tobacco industry and its attempt to market to youth

  • Story discusses youth tobacco consumption rates in the state, as well as industry marketing practices designed to attract youth (e.g., flavorings in tobacco products), but no mention of tobacco marketing practices and tobacco availability in lower-income and racial/ethnic minority neighborhoods, such as City A

  • Staff from local CBO committed to preventing tobacco use and supporting cessation could have contributed a tobacco-related disparities perspective

    • ○ How industry has targeted youth from racial/ethnic minority and lower-income backgrounds

    • ○ How such predatory practices can be curtailed (e.g., prevent sale of loosies, or single cigarettes and cigarillos, to youth in local bodegas)

City A mainstream paper, October 2010
  • Describes local city resident's experience on NBC's reality show The Biggest Loser

  • Resident, who lost over 70 pounds, is interviewed about lifestyle changes she has made (e.g., tracking calories, taking cardio boxing classes)

  • Story mentions that 48% of children and adults in City A are considered obese, but data point is not contextualized

    • ○ City A's obesity rate contrasts sharply with average obesity rate for the state: 23.6%

    • ○ Difference is consistent with known disparities across population subgroups; Latinos in the state are 40% more likely to be obese than White adults, and City A is over 70% Latino (see Table 1)

  • No mention of the fact that lifestyle behaviors, although important, are only one factor that contributes to obesity, and they are only one solution

  • Story author could have described genetic, health care, and/or societal causal and solution explanations for obesity disparities

    • ○ Also could have underscored that obesity is risk factor for cancer occurrence and recurrence, among other diseases

  • In so doing, could have interviewed local CBO staff member whose organization is using multilevel strategies to combat obesity in City A