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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.

"In this long-overdue book, Lesa Hatley Major and Stacie Meihaus Jankowski reassert the central role that news media play in circulating and forming the frames of reference that people, professionals, and policy-makers rely on to understand, address, and solve pressing health-related problems. Through empirical analyses of framing in the health communication literature and through their own empirical demonstrations on the topics of obesity and depression, Major and Jankowski provide a nuanced account of an information environment in which seminal frames—thematic and episodic—interweave with the subtle language of gain/loss and responsibility/blame. On display, too, are the authors’ own professional experiences in journalism, which bring to the volume an authoritative rendering of newsroom norms and professional practices that shape journalists’ pivotal story-telling role. This fully conceived, richly researched, and timely book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in health communication." —Paul D’Angelo, Professor of Media and Political Communication, The College of New Jersey