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Examining newspaper coverage among nationally and locally produced news stories regarding prevention focus, and physical activity, diet, and tobacco

Kristy A. Davidson, MPH, Health Communication Research Laboratory, Saint Louis Univeristy, 3545 Lafayette, St. Louis, MO 63104, (314) 977-4036, davidska@slu.edu, Charlene Caburnay, MPH, Health Communication Research Laboratory, Saint Louis University, 3545 Lafayette Ave., Saint Louis, MO 63104, and Matthew W. Kreuter, PhD, MPH, Health Communication Research Laboratory, School of Public Health, Saint Louis University, 3545 Lafayette Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63104.

The mass media have been a major tool in disseminating health information to the public. Both national and locally produced stories have the opportunity to inform and educate the targeted newspaper audience, yet little is known about prevention messages or topics mentioned in these news stories. In this study, four small-market newspapers in Missouri were tracked from February 1999 to December 2003. Nationally and locally produced articles (n=3,169) about tobacco, diet, and physical activity were identified, content analyzed, and the highest level of prevention was coded for each story. Odds ratios were calculated for the use of prevention, dominant topic of the story (physical activity, diet, tobacco), and story type (news, feature, or other) by story source. Preliminary findings suggest that nationally produced articles run stories on diet (OR=1.2;95%CI=0.80,1.1) and tobacco (OR=2.0;95% CI=1.7,2.6) more often than locally produced stories. Nationally produced stories were more often traditional news stories (OR=4.7;95%CI=3.9,5.7) than were locally produced articles, and were less likely to mention any level of prevention than locally produced articles (OR=.62;95%CI=.52,.74). Because locally produced stories may have a larger impact on targeted audiences, local newspaper writers might consider producing more diet and tobacco-related stories for their readers. Local reporters, with the help and expertise of public health practitioners, may enhance nationally produced stories by integrating prevention into news stories, thus informing the targeted audience how they can prevent chronic disease.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Communication, Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

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The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA