Dr. Nicolas Freudenberg, a Professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and colleagues from around the globe recently published a report about the health impact of media coverage of non-communicable disease debates, focusing on how the industries marketing commodities that increase non-communicable disease risk are represented. The work was published in BMC Public Health.
[Photo: Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg]
The research team identified 61 studies providing information on media representations of non-communicable disease risks, non-communicable disease policies and tobacco, alcohol, processed food and soft drinks industries. The data were narratively synthesized to describe the sample, media depictions of industries, and corporate and public health attempts to frame the media debates.
The limited research is primarily about tobacco. Comparative research across industries/risk factors is lacking. Two different frames and focuses dominate the coverage in the literature. The first is on individual responsibilities, often promoted by commercial stakeholders. The second is the need for population-level interventions, frequently advanced by public health advocates.
Establishing the underlying frameworks is crucial for the analysis of media representation of corporations, as they reflect the strategies used to influence public health debates and decision making. The potential utility of media research lies in the insights that it can provide for public health policy advocates about the successful framing of public health messages and strategies to counter communications that undermine public health goals. The authors conclude that a better understanding of current media debates is of paramount importance to improving global health.