T18P04 - Media and Health Policy

Topic : Others

Panel Chair : Shona Hilton - shona.hilton@glasgow.ac.uk

Panel Second Chair : Daniel Weinstock - Daniel.weinstock2@mcgill.ca

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

Call for papers

Session 1


Shona Hilton - shona.hilton@glasgow.ac.uk - University of Glasgow - United Kingdom

The importance of media in framing public and political debates about NCDs

Shona Hilton - shona.hilton@glasgow.ac.uk - University of Glasgow - United Kingdom

For the first time in history non-communicable diseases (NCDs) now pose a greater health burden than communicable infectious diseases and the media play a crucial role in framing public and policy debates about the causes of, and solutions to, NCDs. While the literature suggests that media debates should be a key concern for those interested in understanding public health policy processes, as yet there has been only limited research in this area.  This paper presents the findings from a scoping review which asked: what are the gaps in current research on media representations of industries that contribute to NCD risk and how might media representations shape public and political opinion?  We searched Web of Science, Medline, Embase, and Google Scholar for three NCD debates, considering how alcohol, processed food and tobacco industries have been represented in the media.  Our findings indicate that: (i) limited research that has been undertaken, 61 studies over the last 30 years, mainly dominated by tobacco studies; (ii) comparative research across industries/risk-factors is particularly lacking; and (iii) coverage tends to be dominated by two contrasting frames (market justice and social justice).  We conclude that future research is needed that investigates how media debates on NCD risk and policy are related to have a more nuanced understanding of the complex ways in which media representations of unhealthy commodity industries are shaped by, and contribute to shaping, public, corporate and political discourses. 


Using media content analysis to understand and influence health policy

Christina Buckton - christina.buckton@glasgow.ac.uk - University of Glasgow - United Kingdom

Shona Hilton - shona.hilton@glasgow.ac.uk - University of Glasgow - United Kingdom

Mass media play an important role in policy processes by setting the public agenda and framing narratives. Evidence-based theory illustrates how media content influences which topics audiences are attentive to, and how they understand the problems, societal groups and potential solutions associated with those topics. Understanding media content is useful to policy advocates as they seek to both understand public and elite perceptions of issues and to influence debates by engaging with media narratives.


Content analysis is an established set of methods that allow us to understand media content empirically. This paper comprises reflections on a series of media content analysis research projects covering a variety of health issues including obesity, tobacco control, alcohol, cancer, gender inequalities, HIV prophylaxis and health service delivery. These studies are used to illustrate the variety of ways in which media analysis can aid our understandings of policy processes, from large-scale quantitative studies of changing trends over time, to more focused, qualitative studies of the nuances of policy debates. In exploring these different application of content analysis, we consider how their findings can be applied practically by policy stakeholders.

Employee Leave Policies in the United States: Thirty years of discourse

Mark Daku - mark.daku@mcgill.ca - Montreal Health Equity Research Consortium - Canada

Ensuring that employees have the ability to take time off work when they are sick is a straightforward public health intervention that could have a dramatic impact on public health in the United States. As it stands, there is no Federal law protecting the jobs of workers who have short-term illnesses. The result is that many Americans – typically those workers in lower-waged jobs – do not have the ability to take time off work when they are sick. Importantly, these jobs include restaurant workers and care-givers – precisely the people that you would want to stay home when they are sick.  There is substantial evidence about the benefits of guaranteed sick-leave, from improving public health, to increasing firm productivity.  The issue is not one of evidence, yet there is still much work to be done in order to protect workers in the United States.  In order to shed light on the difficulties – and progress made – in the attempts to place this issue on the national agenda, this article investigates the historical development of the discourse around sick leave in American print media.  Using a combination of automated and manual content analysis, we analyze national newspaper articles from Jan. 1980 – Dec. 2014 that discuss sick leave, family leave, and parental (maternity and paternity) leave.


Oluwasegun David Yusuf - davidyusuf7@gmail.com - University of Lagos/Partnership for African Social and Governance Research - Nigeria

GOALS are a good thing, but as with many New Year resolutions they sometimes need a hard-nosed reassessment in the cold light of January. Take the World Health Organization's goal of eradicating polio by 2000. That deadline has been pushed back repeatedly, as Polio was formerly endemic in 125 countries but remains endemic in just three countries; Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Globally, 21 wild polio cases were reported to the World Health Organisation in 2016 as against 34 in year 2015.However, Nigeria celebrated a break of two years in polio cases on 24th July 2016 only with a recent resurgence of two cases in Borno, Northern Nigeria, later in 2016. 

Polio workers are a newly recognised soft target for anti-West terrorist groups in Nigeria, this began with a suspicion of vaccine programmes in 1996, when inhabitants of Kano, Northerm Nigeria accused New York-based Pfizer Inc of using an experimental meningitis drug on patients without fully informing them of the risks. However, the tide is turning against polio vaccine rejection in northern Nigeria.

After the allegations of contamination of the vaccine with HIV, carcinogens, and sterilizing agents, the program was completely halted in some states, leading to the reversal of gains made in the global PEI. Subsequently, religious, safety, and fertility concerns became the main barriers to polio vaccination in most of northern Nigeria, one of the few remaining holdouts of the disease worldwide. Infact, amid the growing mistrust between the central government and the northern Muslim states, the self-styled Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria ordered a halt to immunizations in August 2003 amid wild rumours that they were a vehicle for a secret US sterilisation campaign, and were spreading HIV.

This paper discusses how community trust, commitment, understanding, and cooperation was rebuilt through the media. In the northern Nigerian Muslim communities, radio and television jingles, community communication and awareness enhancement methodology, with a roadside film show used in campaign (Majigi campaign) to educate the community, along with and Friday sermons and after prayer talks in mobilizing the community, coalition campaign involving imams, Quranic/Islamic school teachers, traditional rulers, doctors, journalists, and polio survivors among others, helped provide access to families that are hard to reach and non-compliant. Following the introduction of the campaign at the community level, occurrence of all types of new polio cases has drastically dropped to the lowest level. This case teaches us how the media can help transform cultural, religious, anti-western sentiments.

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