Media framing for public health policy

Two glasses of champagne

Image by Simon Law on flickr. 

Media coverage plays a key role in shaping public and political attitudes towards policy interventions to improve health.

Researchers from the Menzies Centre for Health Policy, School of Public Health at The University of Sydney, The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre, and the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at The Australian National University reviewed studies of news media to identify the arguments used to frame policies that address risk factors for chronic disease, and the impact of different arguments on attitudes to policy.

Drawing on a previous scoping review, they identified a subsample of 49 studies of media framing of policies to address risk factors for lifestyle-related chronic disease for further analysis.

Of the limited research that has been undertaken, most studies have focused on tobacco policy, followed by alcohol, with a small number of studies of food and beverage policies. 

The study shows both advocates and opponents draw on five frames: health, social, economic, practical and ideological.

Only a small number of studies have examined the impact of framing on public attitudes towards policy interventions, although such studies have tended to focus on the impact of how problems, rather than solutions (i.e. policies) are framed.

Media research is crucial to understanding the complex ways in which attitudes towards policy interventions shape, and are shaped by, public discourses and can provide public health advocates with insights into strategies to successfully position policy arguments.

This review highlights key insights and gaps in the hope that this will stimulate further research that will enhance public health advocates' abilities to promote effective public health policy.

Read the article in full in Social Science & Medicine