The polarizing effect of news media messages about the social determinants of health

Am J Public Health. 2009 Dec;99(12):2160-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.161414. Epub 2009 Oct 15.


Framing health problems in terms of the social determinants of health aims to shift policy attention to nonmedical strategies to improve population health, yet little is known about how the public responds to these messages. We conducted an experiment to test the effect of a news article describing the social determinants of type 2 diabetes on the public's support for diabetes prevention strategies. We found that exposure to the social determinants message led to a divergence between Republicans' and Democrats' opinions, relative to their opinions after viewing an article with no message about the causes of diabetes. These results signify that increasing public awareness of the social determinants of health may not uniformly increase public support for policy action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Middle Aged
  • Politics
  • Public Opinion*
  • Social Responsibility
  • United States
  • Young Adult