Communicating a Health Epidemic: A Risk Assessment of the Swine Flu Coverage in US Newspapers pp. 63-76
Authors: (Nan Yu, Dennis Owen Frohlich, Jared Fougner and Lezhao Ren)
Abstract: Media can contribute to the public assessment of a health risk and provide general knowledge of basic preventive methods. The current study content analyzed the coverage of the 2009 swine flu in major US newspapers to uncover: the general pattern of swine flu coverage in 2009, the presentation of health risk, and the depictions of self-efficacy-related information. The results of this study revealed that the risk of swine flu was frequently depicted with qualitative risk and thematic frames. About one third of the stories compared swine flu to a previous known health risk. Swine flu was less frequently portrayed as a deadly disease or a global risk compared to the previous coverage of avian flu. Social disorders more often appeared as consequences beyond health than economic losses and political disturbances. The depiction of the symptoms of swine flu and general preventive efforts appeared less frequently than the mention of the H1N1 vaccination. However, newspapers expressed uncertainty about the effectiveness of the vaccination. The H1N1 vaccination was recommended by health professionals as an effective preventive method against swine flu. Pregnant women or people with chronic health conditions were strongly recommended to get the H1N1 vaccination and to stay away from the virus. However, it seemed that media have provided conflicting and uncertain messages regarding the vaccination. This may create public confusion about the effectiveness of the vaccination.