192906 Health Status, News Portrayal and the Mission of Public Health: Implications for Public Health Branding

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 11:10 AM

Maria Sistrom, RN MSN PhD , School of Nursing, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland, OR
Chris Palmedo, MA , Hatfield School, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Liana Winett, DrPH, CHES , School of Community Health, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Background: Branding is a marketing tool that presumably adds consumer value to products. Ostensibly, public health branding conveys the value of legitimacy, which would be associated with improved health as a consequence of support for public health's mission. In this study, the “product” of public health is population health and potential branding is understood by examining how public health is portrayed in the newspaper. The purposes of this study are to examine how public health is portrayed in comparison to health status; and to explore the utility of branding for public health.

Methods: US health status was ranked on several measured by county and population using the Community Health Status Indicators dataset. Two “best,” two “worst” and two comparison counties were selected. A qualitative content analysis of newspaper portrayal of public health was performed on regional newspapers serving the selected counties for the period 2004-2006.

Results: Findings reveal public health is frequently mentioned in newspapers, usually positive and often in neutral terms. Differences were found in newspaper portrayal of public health by region and county health status. But these differences may be equally revealing of differences in public governance and culture by region, which also varies by health status.

Conclusions: Findings suggest a practical application for public health officials and media advocacy skills. Philosophically, consideration must taken regarding whether marketing strategies for enhancing public health legitimacy are more appropriate than, for example, public governance or social goods approaches that are more compatible with public health as a function of government.

Learning Objectives:
Explain the practical and philosophical utility of branding for enhancing the legitimacy of public health.

Keywords: Media Advocacy, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I performed the study and drafted the manuscript.
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.