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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Johns Hopkins: U.S. News Media Coverage of Opioid Crisis Features More Public Health Solutions

A study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined news coverage of the opioid crisis from 2013 through 2017 and found that treatment and harm reduction were the most frequently mentioned solutions. At the same time, the study found that several evidence-based public health approaches received scant coverage over the five-year period.

The paper was published online July 22 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

For their study, the researchers analyzed a random sample of 600 U.S. national and local news stories — in print and on television — with high circulation/viewership from 2013 to 2017.

They found that 33 percent of the news stories mentioned treatment, 30 percent mentioned harm reduction and 24 percent mentioned prevention. However, several specific types of evidence-based public health solutions received little news coverage. Nine percent of news stories mentioned medication treatment for opioid use disorder; five percent mentioned harm- reduction solutions like syringe services programs and two percent mentioned safe consumption sites.

“This is good progress,” says Dr. Beth McGinty, associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management and the paper’s lead author. “More coverage of key evidence-based solutions, like medication treatment for opioid use disorder, syringe services programs and safe consumption sites would help educate the public and policymakers.”

Earlier research found that from 1998 to 2012, news media coverage of the opioid epidemic focused on criminal justice-oriented solutions.

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