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Communicating the public health relevance of climate change : A news agenda building analysis

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posted on 2023-08-05, 11:42 authored by Matthew C. Nisbet, Simani Price, Paola Pascual-Ferra, Edward W. Maibach

In this study, we analyze two decades of U.S. newspaper coverage of climate change-related health threats, tracking the relative amount of coverage and the apparent drivers of attention at two national and four regional newspapers. Health impacts such as extreme heat, disease, and respiratory problems, and more vivid threats such as hurricanes, are mentioned in fewer than 5% and 10% of the climate change-related articles in national and regional papers, respectively. Most stories that mentioned health threats were in reaction to naturally occurring events such as heat waves or storms; we found few examples of enterprise or explanatory reporting. However, we did find evidence that basic news agenda-building strategies, especially when localized, do generate substantive reporting. These strategies included the release of regionally tailored studies; the sponsorship of regional meetings; and news conferences on the part of a public health-related coalition. Systematic investment in these strategies along with other recommended initiativesis likely to increase substantive news attention to various health threats associated with climate change, and thereby increase the capacity of communities to pursue mitigation and adaptation actions.



American University (Washington, D.C.)


This study was supported with funding from the National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the CDC or RWJF. Working Paper.


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