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Newspapers under-reporting respiratory diseases which are on the rise

New research from King’s College London has found that European newspapers tend to report a lot more on asthma then COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), despite the increased prevalence of this group of respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and emphysema.

The team also found that the research described in newspapers tended to come from the USA and other European countries, while research from Asia and other continents was almost ignored. Most newspapers gave about four times more coverage to research in their own countries then from around the world.

Newspapers are an important means to communicate research findings to policy makers and the public. However, as our research shows, their view may be distorted in terms of the relative importance and burden from different respiratory diseases.– Lead author, Elena Pallari, Centre for Implementation Science, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

The study found that stories in 26 European newspapers from 19 countries about respiratory diseases were mostly about asthma (69%) rather than COPD (10%), despite the fact the disease burden is the other way around (24% vs. 58%).

The main topics tended to be epidemiology, lifestyle and genetics research, while means of diagnosis and quality of life were neglected topics despite their clinical importance.

This important study highlights the crucial way media reporting impacts public policy in both positive and negative ways.– Co-author, Professor Richard Sullivan

The team of researchers suggest that journalists could consider reporting such neglected research topics, as this may increase public awareness on how to manage COPD appropriately.

The full study is available here.