Communicating Population Health

Print News Media Coverage of Type 2 Diabetes

U.S. newspaper articles published between 2005 and 2006 mostly ignored environmental factors, such as socioeconomic status and food access, as causes of type 2 diabetes. The most frequently mentioned causes were behavioral factors like diet and exercise.

The information that the news media provides when reporting a public health issue frames that issue for the general public. If the news media emphasizes one cause of type 2 diabetes, the public is likely to believe that to be the main cause. This study was a quantitative assessment of print media coverage of type 2 diabetes in 2005 and 2006. The authors searched LexisNexis for articles written about type 2 diabetes. Coded categories for the subject matter of each article helped determine the article’s slant.

Key Findings:

  • Obesity was the most frequently mentioned diabetes cause. Fewer than 12 percent of articles mentioned social or environmental factors.
  • Almost half of the articles that discussed how to remedy type 2 diabetes, mentioned change in diet, while less than 4 percent discussed public policy.

News media coverage of diabetes shapes public perception of the disease. This study found that newspaper articles published between 2005 and 2006 framed type 2 diabetes as the result of behavioral, rather than social, factors.