The impact of the mass media on obstetricians' behavior in Norway

Health Policy. 2017 Sep;121(9):986-993. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2017.07.007. Epub 2017 Jul 26.


Little is known about how physicians and hospitals respond to the risk of being negatively exposed in the mass media. We assume that newspapers will cover events more closely in the areas where they have most of their circulation. Within such areas the likelihood of negative publicity increases. The research question is whether obstetricians respond to negative newspaper coverage by choosing the least risky method of delivery, i.e. Caesarean section. This was tested on a large set of data from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway for the period 2000-2011. The Registry contains detailed medical information about all deliveries, for both the mother and the infant. This set of data was merged with a set of data that contained information about newspaper coverage for the municipalities in which all hospitals were located. Altogether, more than 620 000 deliveries in 46 municipalities were included in the study. The data were analyzed using a hospital fixed effects regression. The main result was that newspaper coverage had a significant positive effect on the probability of having a Caesarean section. Several supplementary analyses supported the main finding. Altogether, our results indicate that obstetricians are sensitive to the risk of being exposed in the mass media. This is likely to be because obstetricians care about their reputation.

Keywords: Caesarean section; Defensive medicine; Doctors’ reputation; Mass media; Newspaper coverage; Public image.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data*
  • Defensive Medicine
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mass Media
  • Newspapers as Topic*
  • Norway
  • Obstetrics / standards
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy