Risk Messages about HPV, Cervical Cancer and the HPV Vaccine Gardasil: A Content Analysis of U.S. and Canadian National Newspaper and News Magazine Articles
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The HPV vaccine (Gardasil) is a significant advancement in women’s health that garnered both positive and negative media coverage. Since public opinion and population uptake of the vaccine can be influenced by media coverage, the purpose of this study was to assess the discussion and presentation of risk information about HPV, cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine in Canadian and U.S. newspapers and news magazines. Using directed content analysis, the reporting of fear-inducing messages about HPV, cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine were compared between Canadian and U.S. top-circulating national newspapers between January 2006—December 2007. Significant differences between countries were found in the number of fear messages about cervical cancer (p < 0.05) but not for HPV or the HPV vaccine. Readability was higher than recommended for the public and emotional tone of the articles was progressively negative. Directed content analysis was also used to assess the discussion of risks, fear-inducing messages about HPV, cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine in four high circulating North American news magazines from January 2006—December 2007. Risk messages about HPV and cervical cancer focused on threatening illness or injury and reporting on the HPV vaccine emphasized it being poorly understood by science. Newspaper and news magazine articles on HPV, cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine included fear-inducing messages. Public health officials and health educators need to be aware of media reporting of fear based risk messages in order to alleviate public anxiety and concern about the HPV vaccine.