205535 What's the story on cancer and diet? A content analysis of U.S. news coverage

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Katherine Clegg Smith, PhD , Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Ann C. Klassen, PhD , Department of Health, Behavior, and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Dana M. Casciotti, MPH , Department of Health, Behavior & Society, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
U.S. Cancer rates remain unacceptably high, although many cancers are preventable through behavioral changes. Such changes require effective communication of information that moves people to act. In 2001, most Americans surveyed named news media as their primary source of health information. This paper considers the nature and influence of news coverage of diet in relation to cancer prevention.

Methods. We conducted a content analysis of eight years of news coverage (2000-2007) on diet and cancer in 9 major U.S. news media: Associated Press, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News. We used cancer as a key search term in conjunction with diet, nutrition, and food, as well as with two specific nutritional elements, fat and vegetable.

Results. The search yielded 277 print and 40 TV stories and our analysis compares coverage over time and by media outlet. We include measures of the dietary issue of interest, type of cancer, targeted populations identified, discussion of diet as a risk or protective factor, nature of “expert” evidence presented and human interest context provided. We assess the potential of news media content to promote public engagement with of cancer prevention messages around diet.

Implications. Diet commands considerable public interest, but established dietary cancer prevention messages aren't necessarily reflected in news coverage. Rather, diet-related news is often presented as causing public confusion and disengagement with cancer prevention behaviors. This study provides a foundation for efforts to improve news media messages promoting the role of diet in cancer prevention.

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the importance of monitoring news coverage of cancer and diet 2. Define how news coverage of diet can be collected and analyzed systematically 3. Evaluate how current news coverage of cancer and diet contributes to cancer prevention efforts

Keywords: Media Message, Food and Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have led the work being presented
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.