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Health News and Responsibility

How Frames Create Blame


Lesa Hatley Major and Stacie Meihaus Jankowski

Who the public blames for health problems determines who the public believes is responsible for solving those health problems. Health policies targeting the broader public are the most effective way to improve health. The research approach described in this book will increase public support for critical health policies. The authors systematically organized and analyzed 25 years of thematic and episodic framing research in health news to create an approach to reframe responsibility in health news in order to gain public support for health policies. They apply their method to two of the top health issues in world—obesity and mental health—and conclude by discussing future research and plans for working with other health scholars, health practitioners, and journalists.

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Chapter Six: Feast or Famine: A Qualitative Analysis of 25 Years of Thematic and Episodic Research in Academic Journals


chapter six

Feast or Famine: A Qualitative Analysis of 25 Years of Thematic and Episodic Research in Academic Journals

Imagine a photo of table with a spread of beautiful food, a table fit for a large extended family’s holiday meal. We can get some information from that picture. We might be able to tell what holiday is being celebrated, for example, by the types of food or the decorations on the table. We might be able to tell about how many people the dinner is for or even have an inkling to the era in which the dinner is being celebrated, the socioeconomic status of the people who are going to be eating the dinner, or even what area of the world the family is from.

But the photo also leaves out information. We don’t know, for example, all of the ingredients being used. We don’t know the reasons for the particular dishes—whether the family makes those particular dishes because they are tradition to that family or to the area in which they live. We probably can’t tell whether the dinner is handmade or catered, or if different family members made different dishes.

We don’t know whether the food tastes good.

We don’t know if the food will cause the family to get sick. We don’t know if some of the people who are gathering to eat will have allergies requiring them to avoid certain dishes. We don’t know...

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