Objectives: This study investigated how media coverage has portrayed diabetes as newsworthy.
Methods: The quantitative component involved tabulating diabetes coverage in 2 major Canadian newspapers, 1988-2001 and 1991-2001. The qualitative component focused on high-profile coverage in 2 major US magazines and 2 major Canadian newspapers, 1998-2000.
Results: Although coverage did not consistently increase, the quantitative results suggest an emphasis on linking diabetes with heart disease and mortality to convey its seriousness. The qualitative component identified 3 main ways of portraying type 2 diabetes: as an insidious problem, as a problem associated with particular populations, and as a medical problem.
Conclusions: Overall, the results suggest that when communicating with journalists, researchers and advocates have stressed that diabetes maims and kills. Yet even when media coverage acknowledged societal forces and circumstances as causes, the proposed remedies did not always include or stress modifications to social contexts. Neither the societal causes of public health problems nor possible societal remedies automatically received attention from researchers or from journalists. Skilled advocacy is needed to put societal causes and solutions on public agendas.