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Studying Media Messages about Public Health

June 15, 2009

Separate movie posters of Robert Mitchum and Humphrey Bogart showing them smoking.

While smoking is no longer depicted as being sophisticated as it once was in classic movies starring Robert Mitchum and Humphrey Bogart, media images still impact young people today.

The depiction of smoking in media – movies, advertising, television, radio – has changed drastically in the last 40 years. Still, issues such as smoking and sexual behavior remain prevalent in mainstream media, with potential to influence behaviors of young people. These issues are tackled in a new book co-edited by UAlbany School of Public Health Assistant Professor Jennifer Manganello, Media Messages and Public Health: A Decisions Approach to Content Analysis (Routledge). 

As a growing number of researchers in various fields are using content analysis to study media messages about health, this book provides a valuable resource to those who are planning or conducting such a study. Manganello is in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior.

Manganello's interest in content analysis began while working on her dissertation at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, when she conducted a study involving a content analysis of news articles related to health issues and violence against women.

She then continued to use content analysis for her research while a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. During her time there, she attended a meeting (funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) of researchers who were looking at how sexual messages on TV and other media affect sexual behavior in adolescents. 

UAlbany's Jennifer Manganello of the School of Public Health

School of Public Health Assistant Professor Jennifer Manganello's research examines what media messages young people are exposed to, and helps to understand how these messages influence health behavior.  

"After the meeting, my co-editors and I decided to work on this book because while there were other books describing how to do a content analysis study, there were no resources that provided examples of the difficult decisions researchers make while doing this type of research. We also wanted to provide examples specifically related to the study of health messages, and we have accomplished that in this book," she said.

Manganello's research examines media messages for the purpose of understanding what messages young people are exposed to, and to then understand how these messages influence health behavior. She is also interested in improving the methods used in media research.

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