The Polarizing Effect of News Media Messages About the Social Determinants of Health

University of Pennsylvania, 3641 Locust Walk, Room 302, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6218, USA.
American Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 4.23). 12/2009; 99(12):2160-7. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.161414
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Framing health problems in terms of the social determinants of health aims to shift policy attention to nonmedical strategies to improve population health, yet little is known about how the public responds to these messages. We conducted an experiment to test the effect of a news article describing the social determinants of type 2 diabetes on the public's support for diabetes prevention strategies. We found that exposure to the social determinants message led to a divergence between Republicans' and Democrats' opinions, relative to their opinions after viewing an article with no message about the causes of diabetes. These results signify that increasing public awareness of the social determinants of health may not uniformly increase public support for policy action.

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  • The European Journal of Public Health 02/2015; 25(1):1-2. DOI:10.1093/eurpub/cku214 · 2.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Epigenetics is an emerging field of research related to, but in many ways distinct from, genetics. The science of epigenetics introduces causal pathways which complicate a number of longstanding politically relevant concepts such as the conventional distinctions drawn between conservatives and liberals. These political complications of epigenetics are discussed in this paper in the context of the prevailing narratives of obesity which reflect these ideological oppositions. For example, epigenetics provides elements which at once fit both the conservative narrative of personal responsibility for obesity and the more liberal narrative of the overriding influence of the environment. How these novel narrative possibilities from epigenetics will be used in policy discussions is therefore an open question which this paper attempts to answer. First, the significant narrative elements of the prevailing attributions—or narratives—of responsibility for obesity are identified and established via a content analysis of articles on obesity from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The emerging narrative of epigenetics is also identified and compared against the liberal and conservative narratives. This comparison produces a number of interesting results. For one, while the narrative of epigenetics shares elements in common with both the liberal and conservative narratives, it is also much more similar to the conservative narrative of obesity than to the liberal narrative. These similarities between the conservative and the epigenetic narratives result from their shared emphasis on the genetic component of obesity, and the interaction of genes with the environment in particular. As the science of epigenetics is basically the explanation of the interactions between our genes and our environments this coincidence does makes conceptual sense, but the importance of genes in the conservative narrative of obesity is unexpected. Some of the implications of this early congruence of the epigenetic and conservative narratives are discussed.
    Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference, Chicago, IL; 04/2015


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