Media Depictions of Health Topics: Challenge and Stigma Formats

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This article explored the notion that media depictions of health concerns come in one of two formats: challenge and stigma. After explicating the five features that should appear in challenge format and the seven features of stigma formats, we analyzed the content of health messages in magazines, brochures, and posters (n = 75) in a metropolitan area. The results of a two-factor confirmatory factor model showed that the five suggested features for challenge formats did, indeed, appear together (alpha = .76), and the seven features for stigma formats, also, appeared together (alpha = .90), and showed no residual relationship. In other words, the results suggest that media depictions of health topics appear in either challenge or stigma formats (r = -.87). Health issues appearing in magazine advertisements and articles presented messages in challenge formats, while brochures and posters from largely nonprofit and government groups depicted health issues in stigma formats. Some health topics appeared most often in challenge formats (including cancer, heart disease, and scoliosis), while others appeared in stigma formats (including tuberculosis, hepatitis, smoking, and sexually transmitted diseases [STDs]). Findings suggest that media depictions of health differ, and the implications of stigma and challenge formats are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-249
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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