Reporting diet-related health issues through newspapers: portrayal of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

This study identifies (i) the extent to which newsprint media communicate to their readers the lifestyle factors associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes and (ii) newspaper portrayal of social determinants affecting onset of disease. A content analysis of five leading UK national newspapers and their Sunday equivalents was conducted over a 3-month period between January and March 2008. This study shows that cardiovascular disease had much higher press interest than Type 2 diabetes. ‘Middle-market’ and ‘Quality’ papers had higher levels of reporting than the ‘Popular’ press, but the patterns were more complex when the comprehensiveness of reporting was measured within each article. Social determinants affecting disease onset were poorly reported by newspapers, supporting similar research conducted in other countries. This research identifies that there is potential for newspapers to improve their reporting of lifestyle diseases, by including individual and social determinants of disease onset. Lower social classes who read the popular press receive the lowest frequency of reporting and could benefit most from this information. While the research identifies that newspapers are missing the potential to actively communicate and reinforce government health policy, it recognises that the commercial context of the print media may counter such behaviour.