Insights into How HIAs are Characterized in the Press: Findings from a Media Analysis of Widely Circulated United States Newspapers
Background: Health impact assessments (HIAs) are burgeoning tools in the policy process, where the media plays a critical role by focusing attention on issues, informing consumers, and influencing positions. Examining how media portrays HIAs is critical to understanding HIAs in the policy context.
Methods: This study considered how widely circulated, U.S. newspapers represent HIAs. After searching newspaper databases, we used a qualitative document analysis method consisting of open and axial coding to examine specific phrases of HIA depictions.
Results: In coding over 1,000 unique phrases from the 62 documents generated in our search, we found an uptick in HIA-related publications since 2010. Coding these documents identified 46 distinct codes across 10 different themes. The two most prominent HIA-centered themes focused on HIA engagement and the HIA setting. While themes of policy and science, health determinants, and explanations of HIAs were also frequently featured, specific mentions of projected impacts, HIA processes, HIA values, and health outcomes were less prevalent.
Conclusions: HIA media portrayals warrant further inquiry from researchers and practitioners. Focusing on how media portrays HIAs is consistent with several HIA steps. It is also important for a broader strategy to educate stakeholders about HIAs and to understand HIAs’ utility. HIA practitioners should develop and implement guidelines for media interaction and tracking that encourage practitioners to seek additional media attention and to focus such attention on health impacts and outcomes, HIA recommendations, and HIA values. Building on our work, researchers should examine HIA media portrayals beyond the context of this study.
Ali, S., O'Callaghan, V., Middleton, J. D., & Little, R. (2009). The challenges of evaluating a health impact assessment. Critical Public Health, 19(2), 171-180. doi:10.1080/09581590802392777.
Bourcier, E., Charbonneau, D., Cahill, C., & Dannenberg, A. L. (2015). Peer reviewed: An evaluation of health impact assessments in the United States, 2011–2014. Preventing Chronic Disease, 12.
Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27-40.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2014, March 21). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/socialdeterminants/faq.html#c.
Dannenberg, A. L. (2016). Peer reviewed: Effectiveness of health impact assessments: A synthesis of data from five impact evaluation reports. Preventing Chronic Disease, 13.
Dorfman, L., & Krasnow, I. D. (2014). Public health and media advocacy. Annual Review of Public Health, 35(1), 293-306. doi:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032013-182503
Gase, L. N., Pennotti, R., & Smith, K. D. (2013). “Health in All Policies”: Taking stock of emerging practices to incorporate health in decision making in the United States. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 19(6), 529-540.
Golden, S.D. & Moreland-Russell, S. (2016). Public Policy Explained. In A.A., Eyler, J.F., Chriqui, S. Moreland-Russell, & R.C. Brownson (Eds.), Prevention, policy, and public health (17-39) New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Gottlieb, L. M., Fielding, J. E., & Braveman, P. A. (2012). Health impact assessment: Necessary but not sufficient for healthy public policy. Public Health Reports, 127(2), 156-162.
Harris-Roxas, B., & Harris, E. (2013). The impact and effectiveness of health impact assessment: A conceptual framework. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 42, 51-59. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2012.09.003.
Janssen, S. (2016). The world almanac and book of facts 2016. New York, NY: World Almanac Books.
Lin, T., Houchen, C., Hartsig, S., & Smith, S. (2017). Optimizing your health impact assessment (HIA) experience. Kansas Health Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.khi.org/assets/uploads/news/14753/hiahandbook_final_web.pdf.
National Research Council (NRC). (2011). Improving health in the United States: The role of health impact assessment. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. Retrieved from:
Neuman, W.L (2004). Basics of social research: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education, Inc.
The Pew Charitable Trusts. (2015, November 4). Health Impact Assessments in the United States. [Map illustrating of HIAs completed in the U.S.]. Retrieved from
Quigley, R. J., & Taylor, L. C. (2004). Evaluating health impact assessment. Public Health, 118(8), 544-552. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2003.10.012.
Randolph, W., & Viswanath, K. (2004). Lessons learned from public health mass media campaigns: marketing health in a crowded media world. Annual Review of Public Health, 25, 419-437.
Rudolph, L., Caplan, J., Ben-Moshe, K., & Dillon, L. (2013). Health in all policies: A guide for state and local governments. American Public Health Association. Retrieved from: http://www.phi.org/resources/?resource=hiapguide.
Schuchter, J., Bhatia, R., Corburn, J., & Seto, E. (2014). Health impact assessment in the United States: Has practice followed standards?. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 47, 47-53.
Shih, T. J., Wijaya, R., & Brossard, D. (2008). Media coverage of public health epidemics: Linking framing and issue attention cycle toward an integrated theory of print news coverage of epidemics. Mass Communication & Society, 11(2), 141-160.
Winkler, M. S., Krieger, G. R., Divall, M. J., Cissé, G., Wielga, M., Singer, B. H., . . . Utzinger, J. (2013). Untapped potential of health impact assessment. World Health Organization. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 91(4), 298-305.
World Health Organization (WHO). (2017). Social determinants of health. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/social_determinants/sdh_definition/en/.
Copyright (c) 2017 Maxim Gakh, Courtney Coughenour, Jennifer Pharr, Aaliyah Goodie, Samantha To
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Copyright to works published in Chronicles of Health Impact Assessment is retained by the author(s). Articles published in this journal are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process.