News Affects The Opioid Epidemic. Like many, maybe even most things, the public continues to get a large percentage of the information they receive on a trending subject from the news media. Leaving out personal social media interactions, that number even increases when you add online media to traditional media outlets.
So, it probably comes as no surprise that news coverage of the opioid epidemic affects people’s perceptions of exactly what the problems are, as well as whether it is a growing concern, and how well or effectively the problem is being addressed.
The Public Health Institute has performed an analysis of news coverage of the opioid epidemic in Northern California that sheds an interesting light on the question:
News Affects The Opioid Epidemic. The news in rural Northern California provides a window through which we can glimpse how the public—and policymakers—understand the critical epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose in the region. A new preliminary analysis from PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) found that the news reinforces that the opioid epidemic is severely affecting communities locally and nationally; that the epidemic drives local crime; and that communities are exploring fledgling prevention and recovery efforts.
Unlike previous responses to drug use, opioid addiction is routinely framed in the news as a public health issue as well as a criminal justice issue—but public health advocates and medical practitioners are currently absent from the coverage.
As the opioid epidemic worsens, it is critical to understand how the news is shaping people’s understanding of the issue and what can be done about it. In this report, supported by the California Public Health Department, PHI’s BMSG analyzes news coverage from Northern California outlets, provides insights into how the issue is framed, and suggests questions for additional research.