Communicating population health: print news media coverage of type 2 diabetes

Soc Sci Med. 2009 Oct;69(7):1091-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.07.009. Epub 2009 Aug 8.


The public learns much about health and health policy from the news media. The news media can shape the public's opinions about issues by emphasizing certain features in their coverage, such as the causes of a problem, who is responsible for addressing it, and what groups are affected. This study examines media framing of the problem of type 2 diabetes, focusing on the extent to which the news media discuss diabetes using features that characterize a population health orientation (mentioning social determinants, upstream interventions, or disparities). We collected data from 698 print news articles appearing in 19 U.S. newspapers between 2005 and 2006. Results demonstrate that the predominant explanation for type 2 diabetes was behavioral factors and obesity. The predominant strategy to address diabetes was individualized behavior changes and medical care. A minority of articles described the social determinants of diabetes, upstream policy solutions, and disparities in diabetes; such articles appeared in a select subset of news outlets. These findings suggest the potential for great variability in public awareness of disparities in diabetes or its social determinants, with implications for the public's likelihood of supporting policies that may improve population health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / therapy
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Promotion / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Logistic Models
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Newspapers as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Public Health
  • United States