NIH Apr 3, 2009 | R03

Black Newspaper Coverage of Genetics and its Implications for African Americans

Principal Investigator(s): Caburnay, Charlene


FOA Number: PA-08-013


The Human Genome Project and the International HapMap Project have produced significant resources for understanding the genetic bases for health and disease, including identifying genetic variations, genetic mutations, and genomic functions. The interpretation and reporting of findings from these resources have direct and immediate implications for researchers, the news media, and the general public. Knowledge gaps and low health literacy limit how well many people understand health and genetic information and can therefore influence their decisions and actions. Compared to other racial and ethnic population subgroups, African Americans are more likely to have limited and or inaccurate health information and lower levels of health literacy. With increasing and complex genetic information, recommendations, and products being reported to the public, the news media play an important role in reporting and interpreting new discoveries from genetic studies. Although recent studies have explored media reporting of genetic information and public perceptions of those reports, no studies have examined such coverage or its effects in media outlets specifically serving minority populations. Currently, Black newspapers reach a large proportion of the U.S. Black population-estimates range from 6 to 15 million African Americans in total circulation-and are the most trusted media source for health information among African Americans. This application proposes the first national study of news coverage of genetics in a national sample of Black newspapers plus experimental testing of three African American-centric approaches to reporting on genetics. The study consists of two parts: (1) describing differences between African American and general population newspapers in reporting genetics-related information; and (2) conducting a randomized experiment to determine which characteristics of news stories about genetics are most appealing to and understood by African American adults. First, using an existing database of 17,172 health stories we created from 24 Black newspapers and 12 general population papers published from 2003-2008, we will identify and content analyze all genetics-related health stories (n=370) and use this information to characterize current newspaper coverage of genetics. Second, in a randomized experiment, 296 African Americans ages =21 years will read mock news headlines and news articles about genetic risk that apply findings from prior studies of culturally based health communication in African Americans. The study will test effects of: (A) headlines using the term "family history" vs. "genetics"; (B) news reports that include personal stories ("narratives") vs. none; and (C) news reports that include local and race-specific information vs. none. By characterizing current journalistic practices in Black newspapers and identifying optimal strategies for presenting genetics-related information to African American audiences, this study takes the first step toward improving understanding and enhancing perceptions of genetics and genetic research among African Americans. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE - This two-part exploratory study uses a current and one-of-a-kind database of health stories from Black and general population newspapers to characterize current coverage of genetics-related health news stories, and improves upon this coverage by identifying characteristics of genetics-related stories that maximize interest, comprehension, and trust in those stories by African Americans exposed to this coverage.




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Start Date:
Apr 3, 2009

End Date:
Mar 31, 2011



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