Online Program

Challenges to local health department-media advocacy to reduce health disparities

Monday, November 2, 2015

Nancy Winterbauer, PhD, BSOM, Department of Public Health, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Mary Tucker-McLaughlin, PhD, School of Communication, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Ashley Tucker, MPH, BSOM. Department of Public Health, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Melissa Ritt, School of Communication, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Background:  Policy makers report that constituents’ opinions factor heavily in policy decisions. Mass media play an essential role in shaping public opinion and can be a powerful public health ally in driving policy change.  Recent work in North Carolina (NC) demonstrated challenges to local health department (LHD) engagement with mass media, including place-based variation in media availability, under-resourced agencies, and public information staff with little training in mass communication at hire.  However, little is known about challenges to LHD staff-mass media interactions in the production of health news. The purpose of this study was to describe barriers to effective LHD–media interaction that might limit stories important in shedding light on health disparities.

Methods: As part of a larger study examining LHD use of the County Health Rankings in NC, qualitative interviews were conducted with 12 LHD staff and 11 journalists from a range of variously sized counties and weekly and daily newspapers.

Results:  Barriers to effective interaction included: lack of resources; unfamiliarity of LHD staff with news organization and production; unfamiliarity of media with complex health issues, such as the social determinants of health or health disparities; and struggle for control over the news agenda.

Conclusions:  The resource-poor environment in which both media and LHDs operate heightens the necessity for LHDs to better understand the news production process and partner with mass media to shape stories that can drive change, reduce disparities and improve community health. Strategies to improve LHD-media advocacy are recommended.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Communication and informatics
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Other professions or practice related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Describe barriers local health department staff encounter in the production of health news List strategies local health departments can use to more effectively engage with local media in health advocacy

Keyword(s): Communication, Advocacy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted research and published in this field.
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.