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Health Policy. 2013 Apr;110(1):67-75. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2013.01.006. Epub 2013 Feb 16.

Here today, gone tomorrow: the issue attention cycle and national print media coverage of prescription drug financing in Canada.

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  • 1Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 201-2206 East Mall, Vancouver BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada.


Canada is the only developed country that has established universal coverage for hospital care and physician services that excludes medically necessary prescription drugs. Lack of public interest in expanding universal coverage to prescription medicines may be one critical factor in explaining this policy puzzle. Historical levels and patterns of attention to financing issues in the media may have implications for public awareness and support for such major health reform. We thus examined the quantity, context, and patterns of coverage of public drug financing in national print media in Canada from 1990 to 2010. We conducted a time series analysis of monthly newspaper article counts to quantify trends in coverage and analyzed article content by applying Down's theory of the "issue-attention cycle" of political attention. We found that baseline coverage of this issue was low throughout the past twenty years with few cycles of increased attention, initiated by focusing events related to general health reform. Issue-attention cycles were driven by coverage of proposed policy solutions simultaneously accompanied by lower levels of coverage of policy problems and barriers to change, before fading rapidly from attention. The observed patterns of media coverage and the intrinsic characteristics of this policy issue suggest that any momentum for reform (or lack thereof) is likely to be driven by elite members of the policy community rather than by way of public engagement. This has implications for the probability of reform and which options may be considered or eventually implemented, as policies developed within elite policy communities may tend to reflect niche interests rather than being reflective of principled policy goals.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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