How Journalists Characterize Health Inequalities and Redefine Solutions for Native American Audiences

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Native Americans, Health Determinants, Historical Trauma, Journalism, Inequalities/disparities

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Many Native American communities experience severe health inequalities, including shorter average lifespan and higher rates of chronic illnesses. Journalism that serves Native Americans is a promising channel for heath communication, but only if scholars first understand the particular cultural contexts of indigenous communities. This research contributes to that goal by investigating how journalists serving Native American communities characterize health and the issues they identify with covering determinants of health. In in-depth interviews (N = 24), journalists contrasted how they cover health issues as embedded in cultural context with shallow, more negative coverage by non-Native media organizations. Interviews also revealed a tension between “medical” and “cultural” models of health, contributing to the oversaturation of certain issues, like diabetes, while other health topics are underrepresented. The journalists also expressed how social determinants and histories of oppression shape health inequalities, illuminating the roles of historical trauma and the destruction of indigenous health beliefs and behaviors. Failure to recognize these issues could stymie efforts to communicate about health issues facing Native American audiences.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Health Communication, v. 34, issue 4, p. 383-391