Background: In many nations, government fiscal restraint is reducing the ability of public health authorities to mount mass-reach health information advertising campaigns. Strategies for increasing news coverage of health issues, and thereby contributing to policy advocacy, are well recognized, yet under-explored in health promotion research.
Objective: To increase news coverage of smoking and health issues by issuing media releases about research judged as newsworthy and important in contributing to tobacco control policy debates.
Method: Research reports selected for their potential newsworthiness were promoted in news releases and their news 'hit rates' in New South Wales (Australia) metropolitan media over 5 weeks were compared with the background coverage of tobacco control issues over the same period.
Results: Fifty-eight of 283 (20.5%) news reports on tobacco in the study period were generated by the six media releases.
Conclusions: News reportage of tobacco control and other public health issues can be increased significantly by the strategic use of news releases alerting journalists to research reports that embody recognizable news values. This is an inexpensive strategy with great potential to advance public health objectives.