Thursday, November 13, 2008

Media Coverage and the Perception of Disease

THIS is a great article on a topic I've suspected is true for some time.

The media loves latching on to the latest health trend/threat. Be it Bird Flu, Mad Cow, or a salmonella outbreak, when the media gets a hold of it, they make it as bad and dramatic as possible. Dramatic and scary sells. Boring and low-risk doesn't sell. No surprise there.

For example, Hepatitis B is more common than HIV. Most people probably wouldn't guess that, as Hepatitis is almost completely absent from the mainstream consciousness.

The Bird Flu "threat" is a great example of media bias and perception. A couple of years ago, during the height of the Bird Flu scare, I bet half the country thought we were at risk of being invaded by Hitchcockian Hordes of sneezing parakeets.  Alas, no such event ever manifested itself.

This is certainly something to keep in mind the next time you see an article on a health scare in the mainstream media.


Anonymous said...

Not only would most people probably not know that Hepatitis B is more common than HIV, but I'd be willing to bet that a huge percentage of people don't even know what Hepatitis B is.

Dad said...

Well, let's see: so far today we've has a major network outage, my most recent hire has to delay her start date 3-4 weeks, and my manager of the last 8.5 years is on her last day in the department.

Then I read: "Hordes of sneezing parakeets". I'm typing this with tears (of laughter) dropping on the keyboard. My staff is getting a bit nervous...

Thank you for that!