Objectives To assess the extent of media-based public health advocacy versus pro-industry messaging regarding sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).
Design We conducted a systematic analysis to identify and examine all articles regarding SSBs published in all mainstream British print newspapers and their online news websites from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2014. We initially conducted a brief literature search to develop appropriate search terms and categorisations for grouping and analysing the articles. Articles were then coded according to the publishing newspaper, article type, topic, prominence and slant (pro-SSB or anti-SSB). A contextual analysis was undertaken to examine key messages in the articles.
Results We identified 374 articles published during 2014. The majority of articles (81%) suggested that SSBs are unhealthy. Messaging from experts, campaign groups and health organisations was fairly consistent about the detrimental effects of SSB on health. However, relatively few articles assessed any approaches or solutions to potentially combat the problems associated with SSBs. Only one-quarter (24%) suggested any policy change. Meanwhile, articles concerning the food industry produced consistent messages emphasising consumer choice and individual responsibility for making choices regarding SSB consumption, and promoting and advertising their products. The food industry thus often managed to avoid association with the negative press that their products were receiving.
Conclusions SSBs were frequently published in mainstream British print newspapers and their online news websites during 2014. Public health media advocacy was prominent throughout, with a growing consensus that sugary drinks are bad for people's health. However, the challenge for public health will be to mobilise supportive public opinion to help implement effective regulatory policies. Only then will our population's excess consumption of SSBs come under control.
- PUBLIC HEALTH
- Sugar Sweetened Beverages
- Food Industry
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