The Cinderella of public health news: Physical activity coverage in Autralian newspapers, 1986-2006

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Journal Article
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2009, 33 (2), pp. 189 - 192
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Objective: This research examined trends in physical activity reporting by Australian newspapers, and described these trends compared to coverage of obesity and tobacco. Method: The Factiva database was searched for articles published in major Australian metropolitan newspapers (1986-2006) that mentioned physical activity, obesity or tobacco smoking. Standardised frequencies compared the three health issues, and trends in reporting were estimated by using standard multiple regression models to fit linear splines with fixed knots at years 1991, 1996 and 2001 to the standardised data. Results: Physical activity received the least coverage 1986-2006, appearing in 4,988 articles, compared with 15,410 and 63,738 articles for obesity and tobacco respectively. Between 1996 and 2000, there were significant increases in the rate of coverage of physical activity (β=0.21; p<0.01), obesity (β=0.13; p<0.01) and tobacco (β=0.24; p<0.0001). From 2001 to 2006 the rate of physical activity coverage was relatively steady, while the obesity coverage rate increased dramatically (β=0.34; p<0.0001), and tobacco coverage rate slowed (β=-0.33; p<0.0001). Conclusions: This study demonstrates that physical activity reporting in the media has increased, but received less attention than obesity and tobacco. Implications: Physical activity advocates face the challenge of highlighting the newsworthiness of physical activity and raising the issue higher on the public agenda. Journal Compilation © 2009 Public Health Association of Australia.
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