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Coverage of Health News, January – June 2009

The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism conducted this study of how the U.S. news media covered health issues over a six-month period from January 2009 through June 2009. It is an update of a study measuring news media coverage of health issues from January 2007 to June 2008. The study finds that news about health and health care made up roughly five percent of all news content from the first half of 2009.

Health policy and the state of the U.S. health care system was the most covered health-related topic—forty percent of all the health news coverage in the first half of the year. But the bulk of that coverage did not come until June, when health legislation started making its way through Congress. After health policy/the health care system (40%), public health (36%) was the second most covered topic, dominated by news of the swine flu outbreak. About a quarter (24%) of all health news focused on specific diseases or conditions. This reflects a substantial shift in the nature of health coverage from the previous study, when news concerning specific diseases dominated coverage of health with roughly 42 percent, followed by public health at 31 percent and finally health policy and the U.S. health care system at 27 percent.

Study (.pdf)