Publications

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Issue 4: Children's health in the news

In the late 1990's, children's health began to receive more attention in the news media. But was the coverage meaningful? In this Issue, we find out by examining three months of coverage from newspapers and National Public Radio.

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A new debate on affirmative action: Houston and beyond [pdf]

Knowing that the media can be very powerful in shaping how voters perceive social issues, BMSG analyzed news coverage of Houston's Proposition A and other affirmative action issues during the fall of 1997.

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Issue 3: Oakland shows the way: The Coalition on Alcohol Outlet Issues and media advocacy as a tool for policy change

In September 1993, a small but dedicated group of prevention advocates in Oakland, Calif., had the alcohol industry running scared. This Issue describes how the coalition used media advocacy successfully in its four-year struggle to rectify the over concentration of alcohol outlets in Oakland.

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Youth and violence on local television news in California

This study departs from the traditional perspective that televised violence directly affects viewers' behavior and instead examines how news stories about violence influence public and policymaker opinion. The study employs the concept of framing, which posits that media tell people not only what issues to think about but also how to think about them.

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Communications and public health

This chapter shows how public health advocates can make better use of the mass media to address significant public health problems. It lays the foundation for such an approach, known as media advocacy, and it offers a 10-step guide to using media advocacy.

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Issue 2: Junk gun bans in California newspapers

Californians made history in 1996. Across the state, 29 cities and counties voted to ban "junk guns" — the small, cheap handguns used disproportionately in crime. This Issue analyzes the arguments used during that debate in the 18 newspapers covering the regions where the bans were first enacted.

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Issue 1: What is media advocacy?

What is media advocacy? And how does it differ from the other ways groups use the mass media? Issue 1 shows how local groups use media advocacy to focus upstream on policy change and explains why that's so important.

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Reporting on violence: A handbook for journalists

This handbook shows how journalists can adopt a public health approach to violence -- one that views violence as preventable, not inevitable, and seeks to alter the basic conditions in our society that give rise to and sustain its unacceptably high levels. It also suggests different questions that reporters can ask to help illuminate the issue of violence prevention and give people better information to develop more effective policy and programs.

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The affirmative action debate [pdf]

Affirmative action was a significant issue in the 1996 national and state elections. This framing memo, based on a news analysis of the issue, shows how affirmative action supporters and opponents framed their arguments and how supporters could have done a better job of making their case.

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Media advocacy: A strategy for advancing policy and promoting health

The purpose of media advocacy is to promote public health goals by using the media to strategically apply pressure for policy change. It emphasizes public policy rather than personal behavior. This article uses two case studies to illustrate key aspects of media advocacy. The first is a 5-year statewide violence prevention initiative for young people in California. The second focuses on the activities of a mothers' group working to improve public housing.

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Alcohol advertising and violence against women: A media advocacy case study

This article describes one effort to help prevent violence against women by addressing some of the larger societal factors involved. The Dangerous Promises campaign is based on the premise that sexist advertising images contribute to an environment conducive to violence against women. Using the community organizing and media advocacy, the campaign pressures the alcohol industry to change how they portray women in much of their advertising. The article examines the strategies and outcomes of the campaign and makes a case for using media advocacy in the policymaking process.

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Visualizing America's drug problems: An ethnographic content analysis of illegal drug stories on the nightly news

Although drug use in the U.S. was declining in the late 80s and early 90s, "drug war" rhetoric and punitive solutions continued to run rampant. A large body of literature suggests that media played a large role in that. This article reports on a content analysis of network news reports on illegal drugs to see how portrayals of their usage stacked up against reality.

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Local television news coverage of President Clinton's introduction of the Health Security act

This article investigates how local television news reported on health system reform during the week President Clinton presented his health system reform bill. The authors find that although health system reform was the focus of a large number of local television news stories during the week, in-depth explanation was scarce.

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Advancing public health goals through mass media

Using the mass media to improve public health can be like navigating a vast network of roads without any street signs -- if you are not sure where you are going and why, chances are you won't get there. The purpose of this article is to provide an abbreviated road map of three approaches that incorporate mass media in their strategies to advance public health goals.

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Spanish language television news portrayals of youth and violence in California

This exploratory study takes those who may be unfamiliar with Spanish language television news through a comparative analysis of television portrayals of youth and violence. Findings reveal that local Spanish language TV news stories on youth and/or violence are framed with a social, political, and economic context three and a half times more often than such stories in English language local TV news.

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Media strategies for community health advocacy

Health is typically seen as a matter of individual responsibility -- eating well, avoiding tobacco, exercising. Yet this view overlooks important social and economic variables that contribute to disease, disability and injury. This article shows that health care providers have an important role to play in advocacy efforts to push for policies that improve those variables.

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Henry Horner Mothers Guild: Tenants go public on public housing [pdf]

This is the story of a group of women who, with limited resources, used media advocacy to challenge misconceptions about public housing tenants and cast residents of Chicago's housing projects as empowered advocates rather than cliched victims of crime, poverty and hopelessness.

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Media advocacy: A strategy for empowering people and communities

Media advocacy, the strategic use of mass media to advance public policy initiatives, is a new strategy that is emerging in the public health community, particularly in communities of color. Unlike traditional mass media strategies, media advocacy shifts the focus from the individual to the political, from behavior to the environment -- a major determinant of health.

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Physicians as advocates: Promoting healthy public policy via the media

Research and historical experience have established that major health determinants are not located as much in individual behavior as in the social and physical environment. Physicians can -- and should -- use the media's power to help advocate for policies that can improve that environment. They can do so using a strategy known as media advocacy. This article explains how.

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The Berkeley Media Studies Group: Media advocacy for healthy public policy

Public health professionals, advocates and community groups often criticize the news media for "not getting the story right." But there is an alternative to just complaining about the news. Using a strategy called media advocacy, public health advocates can help shape how journalists tell social and public health stories, and, in turn, influence policy makers' opinions and actions regarding policies that affect health. This article describes BMSG's approach to putting media advocacy into practice.

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Advertising health: The case for counter-ads [pdf]

Public service advertisements have been used by many in hopes of "selling" good health behaviors. But behavior is only part of what determines health. Such advertising may be doing more harm than good if it diverts attention from socially based health promotion strategy. Counter-ads are one strategy that can promote a broader responsibility and place health issues in a social and political context.

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Media advocacy and public health: Power for prevention

How we think about health problems, and what we do about them, is largely determined by how they are reported on television, radio and in the newspapers. Often, crucial issues of public health policy are debated and decided on only after they are made visible by the media. In this book, we discuss the concept of media advocacy as a central strategy for the prevention of public health problems. We also lay out the theoretical framework and practical guidelines to successful media advocacy strategies and include case studies on such vital issues as AIDS and alcohol abuse.

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Health messages on television commercials

This article contains findings from a content analysis of health messages found in television commercial time including advertisements, public service announcements (PSAs), editorials, and promotions for upcoming programs. Overall, 31% of the 654 commercial spots contained health messages, and most health messages were claims of good nutrition in food and beverage advertisements. No PSA addressed tobacco, alcohol, or diet, the 3 leading behavioral risk factors for poor health.

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Television news, hegemony and health (letter)

The media frame stories to fit dominant perceptions of social problems, making the news an important vehicle for agenda-setting. Yet a content analysis of 20 hour-long segments of health messages on television revealed that health stories were not presented from a public health perspective. Rather, as this letter published in the American Journal of Public Health shows, stories focused more on medical technology, risk factors, and individual behavior or responsibility.

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