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30+ years of media analysis of relevance to chronic disease: a scoping review

  • Rowbotham, Samantha1, 2
  • Astell-Burt, Thomas1, 3, 4, 5
  • Barakat, Tala1, 2
  • Hawe, Penelope1, 2, 6
  • 1 University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia , Sydney (Australia)
  • 2 The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre, Sydney, Australia , Sydney (Australia)
  • 3 University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia , Wollongong (Australia)
  • 4 Peking Union Medical College and The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China , Beijing (China)
  • 5 Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), Beijing, China , Beijing (China)
  • 6 University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada , Calgary (Canada)
Published Article
BMC Public Health
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Mar 20, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-020-8365-x
Springer Nature


BackgroundChronic, non-communicable diseases are a significant public health priority, requiring action at individual, community and population levels, and public and political will for such action. Exposure to media, including news, entertainment, and advertising media, is likely to influence both individual behaviours, and attitudes towards preventive actions at the population level. In recent years there has been a proliferation of research exploring how chronic diseases and their risk factors are portrayed across various forms of media. This scoping review aims to map the literature in this area to identify key themes, gaps, and opportunities for future research in this area.MethodsWe searched three databases (Medline, PsycINFO and Global Health) in July 2016 and identified 499 original research articles meeting inclusion criteria: original research article, published in English, focusing on media representations of chronic disease (including how issues are framed in media, impact or effect of media representations, and factors that influence media representations). We extracted key data from included articles and examined the health topics, media channels and methods of included studies, and synthesised key themes across studies.ResultsOur findings show that research on media portrayals of chronic disease increased substantially between 1985 and 2016. Smoking and nutrition were the most frequent health topics, and television and print were the most common forms of media examined, although, as expected, research on online and social media channels has increased in recent years. The majority of studies focused on the amount and type of media coverage, including how issues are framed, typically using content analysis approaches. In comparison, there was much less research on the influences on and consequences of media coverage related to chronic disease, suggesting an important direction for future work.ConclusionsThe results highlight key themes across media research of relevance to chronic disease. More in-depth syntheses of studies within the identified themes will allow us to draw out the key patterns and learnings across the literature.

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