170985 Variations in newspaper coverage of breastfeeding in public legislation

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 10:30 AM

Shannon Hensley, MD, MPH , Family & Community Medicine, University of Missouri - Columbia, Columbia, MO
Megan Chen, MA, MPH , Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Jessica Abrams, MPH , The Breastfeeding Center, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA
Anne Merewood, PhD, MPH, IBCLC , Division of General Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA
Background: With increased awareness of breastfeeding as a preventive public health strategy, many states have introduced legislation to protect breastfeeding women. Newspaper reporting on breastfeeding has also risen in recent years. The highly publicized 2006 incident of a breastfeeding mother being forced off a commuter flight is one example of such media coverage around breastfeeding in public.

Objective: To determine the extent of newspaper coverage of public breastfeeding legislation enacted between 1993-2002.

Methods: We obtained the text of all state public breastfeeding legislation enacted between 1993-2002, from state legislature websites and state congressional librarians. Newspapers circulating within each state, available on LexisNexis legal and academic databases, were searched for relevant articles published within +/- one year of the date legislation took effect.

Results: Breastfeeding legislation was often featured in the press, but coverage varied considerably. The range of coverage was from zero to 27 articles with a mean of 6 per state. The majority (55%) of states had a frequency of 0-5 articles, 26% had 6-10 articles, 16% had 11-15 articles and one state, Florida, had over 20 articles.

Conclusions: Newspaper coverage of breastfeeding legislation varies by state. This may influence the effectiveness of legislation. While widespread publicity of legislation may help women to know their legal rights, a void of media coverage may indicate a lack of public awareness.

The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control

Learning Objectives:
1. State need for breastfeeding in public legislation 2. Describe types of media coverage for breastfeeding in public legislation 3. Describe state by state differences in breastfeeding coverage

Keywords: Breastfeeding, Legislative

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I funded the study and mentored the first author who performed the data search.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.