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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 Nine: Conclusions: What Have We Learned and a Path Forward with These Frames


chapter nine

Conclusions: What Have We Learned and a Path Forward with These Frames

Since we collected the academic articles for our content analysis of research on thematic and episodic frames (ending at the beginning of 2018) in news coverage, a recent search on several academic databases yielded more than 20 recently published studies examining these frames in news coverage—national and international. Research on these frames in news coverage will continue because thematic and episodic frames accurately represent how journalists cover issues and tell stories. For this reason, among many others, we should continue to conduct research on these frames. In our analysis of studies examining thematic and episodic frames in health news, the researchers who content analyzed news coverage pulled thousands of stories. Researchers were able to identify thematic and episodic frames in all of these health stories. We should make every effort to understand how these frames are constructed and develop more meaningful methods of analyzing existing content, including visual framing and online news, and framing effects through a variety of methods.

We began this project planning to analyze thematic and episodic frames in news coverage of social problems over a 25 year period since Iyengar published Is Anyone Responsible in 1991. After an initial review of the scholarly journal articles we pulled for analysis, it became clear we should focus on health news because most of the research focused on that topic. The fact that health dominated this area of...

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