Join BMSG at APHA 2018

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Are you heading to San Diego for the American Public Health Association's annual meeting this month? BMSG will be there, too, and we will be presenting our research on a range of topics, from violence prevention to the child welfare system to racial equity in the news.

apha 2018 logoThe theme of this year's conference, "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now," reflects a value that is deeply rooted in the work we do here at BMSG. Our commitment to health equity runs through all our projects because we know that improvements in health stem from improvements in social conditions — such as access to affordable housing, healthy food, quality early care and education, and safe neighborhoods — rather than changes in individual behaviors. Whether we are looking at media narratives around gun violence so that advocates can be better equipped to communicate about prevention, or addressing gender inequity in health care through the lens of nurses' representation in the news, the research we're presenting at APHA this year all comes back to equity.

You can find more details on our sessions below and browse other presentations from our parent organization, the Public Health Institute, at You can also view the full APHA program online. We hope to see you there!

BMSG's 2018 APHA sessions

Communicating the message: How to discuss gun violence prevention with the community, the media, and policymakers

Monday, Nov. 10 at 8:30 a.m.

Communication strategies and language are critical elements of moving toward policy that can help prevent firearm violence. This presentation will focus on effectively communicating with people who have varying opinions and beliefs about gun violence prevention, from gun owners who aim to decrease restrictions on access to firearms, to advocates who seek to eliminate guns in the home, to policymakers who are faced with the debate over firearms on a regular basis.

In this panel presentation, we will discuss the importance of using stories to illustrate the data, identify the core features of an effective, but brief, story, and explore the ways in which stories influence policy and advocacy.

Bridging the gap: Findings from an analysis of news about the child welfare system and domestic violence

Monday, Nov. 12 at 1:00 p.m.

Many families involved in the child welfare system experience domestic violence, so efforts to coordinate child welfare and domestic violence services are critical. Futures Without Violence is leading a five-year project to pilot approaches that will help the child welfare system better serve families experiencing domestic violence.

To better understand the public discourse around these issues, BMSG researchers analyzed U.S. news and wire stories for portrayals of child welfare issues, domestic violence, and frames around accountability and community action. We found that the news rarely illustrated the connections between child welfare and domestic violence issues; overwhelmingly depicted the child welfare system as failing, struggling, or overwhelmed; and rarely included success stories or solutions.

We know promising practices exist, and highlighting them is an important step in educating the public and policymakers to focus on improving the system. In this oral presentation, we will discuss opportunities and recommendations for practitioners and researchers to shift the public conversation around the intersections between domestic violence and the child welfare system, in light of the gaps and opportunities that our analysis revealed.

Twenty years of nurses in the news: Findings from an updated analysis of health care coverage

Monday, Nov. 12 at 1:00 p.m.

Engaging the public in conversations around the quality and safety of health care is crucial for improving the delivery of care. How journalists cover the factors that can undermine or support high-quality, safe patient care can put relevant issues on the public's agenda and help hold health care professionals and systems accountable.

Unfortunately, nurses' perspectives are largely absent from the media conversation about health care. A landmark study from 1997 found that nurses were rarely cited as sources in health news stories. Twenty years later, in collaboration with researchers from the George Washington University School of Nursing's Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement, we replicated this study and discovered that little has changed in the news media's representation of nurses and the nursing profession. Additionally, among speakers overall, there was a large gender gap: Men were quoted roughly twice as often as women in the health care articles in our sample. Nurses also rarely appeared in the photographs and illustrations in our sample. Instead, male physicians and CEOs were frequently represented.

In this poster session, we will share our findings and discuss opportunities and recommendations for nurses, journalists, communication directors, health care executives, and others to elevate the representation of nurses in the media.

Feeling better, doing worse: How "mommy wars" formula advertising can reduce collective action and increase inequities in breastfeeding

Monday, Nov. 12 at 3:00 p.m.

Decades of social-psychological literature on intergroup relations has demonstrated that when two groups exist in a setting with marginalization or inequities present, messaging around commonalities causes both the dominant and marginalized groups to be more optimistic and have more positive intergroup feelings. However, people feel less motivated to act collectively to reduce existing inequities when these "common ground" messages are present.

This is highly relevant in the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding; many mothers face structural and institutional barriers to breastfeeding success, including racial segregation and first-food deserts, wealth disparities, and unequal access to employment protections and paid leave. Unfortunately, infant formula manufacturers have recently begun advertising their products using exactly this "common ground" messaging and have successfully derailed constructive conversations about inequities in the process. Given what we know from other social-psychological experiments, this will likely reduce the ongoing collective action that has been slowly dismantling the persistent barriers to breastfeeding and raising the rates of breastfeeding across the United States.

In this oral presentation, together with researchers from New York University, we will present some particularly egregious examples of this marketing strategy, outline the likely effects of those strategies from an intergroup-relations perspective, and suggest ways in which public health professionals can advocate for health equity in the face of these potentially disruptive marketing campaigns.

More than mass shootings: Findings from an analysis of news about suicide, domestic violence, and gun violence

Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 3:15 p.m.

Horrific stories about mass shootings often dominate the discourse about gun violence, but how do more common types of violence that happen every day appear? And how are community-level prevention and intervention strategies portrayed? We analyzed how three common types of gun violence (domestic violence, suicide, and community violence) are framed in California news. We evaluated news and opinion articles published in English- and Spanish-language outlets for information about speakers, solutions, and root causes of violence. We also analyzed photographs published with each article.

We found that the news about community-level violence dwarfed news about domestic violence or suicide, and photographs in these stories frequently depicted men of color as suspects in criminal cases. Across topics, stories focused on crime and punishment, provided limited context related to community solutions or long-term consequences of gun violence, and seldom included sources other than police officers.

In this oral presentation, we will discuss our findings and what they mean for efforts to shift media narratives around gun violence.

Elevating equity: Findings from an analysis of California news about racial and health equity

Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 8:30 a.m.

Though it can be challenging, making equity part of the public conversation is a key step toward building and maintaining healthy communities where everyone can thrive. News coverage gives us a window into the discourse, since it sets the agenda for what issues people and policymakers think about and frames how they think about them.

As part of a California-focused project on communicating about equity, we conducted a preliminary analysis of articles from state newspapers to learn whether racial and health equity issues are appearing in the news and, if so, how they are framed. We found that when racial or health equity were discussed, topics like health care access, health care reform, and policies around cannabis use drove much of the coverage. Although articles referencing equity concerns were published throughout the year, the inauguration of Donald Trump spurred a modest increase.

In this roundtable discussion, we will identify potential limitations and opportunities of the current news discourse around racial and health equity, based on the findings of our analysis. Though the focus of this study was California, we will also discuss how our findings could be relevant to communities across the country.

A group of advocates will be holding an alternative session in San Diego on Nov. 12, which will bring together perspectives from researchers and community justice movements on how ending law enforcement violence is essential to achieving health equity and justice. You can find out more and get tickets for "Health Equity Now: Ending Police Violence" here.

We'll be sharing highlights from APHA 2018 on our social media channels! Follow our updates @BMSG and on Facebook, and join the conversation by tweeting our sessions using the hashtags #PHIAPHA and #APHA2018.

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