Background: Pneumonia, diarrhea and measles are the leading causes of death in children worldwide, but have a disproportionately low share of international funding and media attention. In comparison, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria--diseases that also significantly affect children--receive considerably more funding and have relatively high media coverage. This study investigates the potential relationship between media agenda setting and funding levels in the context of the actual burden of disease.
Methods: The news databases Lexis Nexis, Factiva, and Google News Archive were searched for the diseases AIDS, TB and Malaria and for lower funded pediatric diseases: childhood pneumonia, diarrhea, and measles. A sample of news articles across geographic regions was also analyzed using a qualitative narrative frame analysis of how the media stories were told.
Results: There were significantly more articles addressing the Global Fund diseases compared to the lower funded pediatric diseases between 1981 and 2008 (1,344,150 versus 291,865 articles). There were also notable differences in the framing of media narratives: 1) There was a high proportion of articles with the primary purpose of raising awareness for AIDS, TB and malaria (46.2%) compared with only 17.9% of the pediatric disease articles. 2) Nearly two-thirds (61.5%) of the AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria articles used a human rights, legal or social justice frame, compared with 46.2% for the lower funded pediatric disease articles, which primarily used an ethical or moral frame.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that lower funded pediatric diseases are presented differently in the media, both quantitatively and qualitatively, than higher funded, higher profile diseases.