253157 Social comparison framing: Examining the effects of racial health disparities on STI risk

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cabral A. Bigman, PhD , Harvard School of Public Health/ Department of Society, Human Development , and Health, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/ Center for Community-Based Research, Boston, MA
Background: Risk is a key component of behavior change theories. Risk literature suggests comparative contrasts, such as those found in news about health disparities, may reduce perceived risk for the less at risk group and increase perceived risk for the more at risk group. Methods: To better understand the influence of health disparities risk information on populations that are singled out or highlighted in comparative contrasts in news stories, a 4 (risk frame) x 2 (respondent race) between subjects online survey experiment was conducted with a non-college based sample of 302 Black and White females (age 18-19). Participants were randomly assigned to watch one of four versions of a TV news clip about STI risks for teenage girls. Results: When Blacks were featured as comparatively more at risk than Whites, perceived group risk for Whites was significantly lower compared to when the same objective risk statistic for Whites was presented in a non-comparative frame; there was no significant difference for Black group risk. On average, Black respondents reported higher personal STI risk than Whites and higher communication and prevention (with the exception of HPV vaccination) intentions. However, consistent with optimistic bias findings, respondents estimated their ingroup to be more at risk for STIs than themselves, regardless of race or condition. Conclusions: Risk information in health disparities news can sometimes alter perceptions of group risk even when the same objective risk information is presented. The study highlights the need for more research on the effects of communication about health disparities.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the connection between social comparison framing and news that communicates about health disparities. 2. Describe findings from a study that experimentally examined the effects of social comparison framing on STI risk perceptions

Keywords: Risk Communication, Health Disparities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present this because I am the health communication researcher that conducted the data collection and analysis.
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.