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Television News Coverage of Public Health Issues and Implications for Public Health Policy and Practice

Authors
  • Gollust, Sarah E.
  • Fowler, Erika Franklin
  • Niederdeppe, Jeff
Type
Published Article
Journal
Annual Review of Public Health
Publisher
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2019
Volume
40
Pages
167–185
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-040218-044017
Source
Annual Reviews
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Television (TV) news, and especially local TV news, remains an important vehicle through which Americans obtain information about health-related topics. In this review, we synthesize theory and evidence on four main functions of TV news in shaping public health policy and practice: reporting events and information to the public (surveillance); providing the context for and meaning surrounding health issues (interpretation); cultivating community values, beliefs, and norms (socialization); and attracting and maintaining public attention for advertisers (attention merchant). We also identify challenges for TV news as a vehicle for improving public health, including declining audiences, industry changes such as station consolidation, increasingly politicized content, potential spread of misinformation, and lack of attention to inequity. We offer recommendations for public health practitioners and researchers to leverage TV news to improve public health and advance health equity.

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