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Lancet. 2000 May 6;355(9215):1633-6.

The case of Norplant as an example of media coverage over the life of a new health technology.

Author information

1
Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, UK. vae@hsru.abdn.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The contraceptive implant Norplant (levonorgestrel) had a fairly short life in the UK. This made it a convenient subject for a case study of how media coverage alters over time. We set out to produce a critical description of national newspaper coverage of Norplant over the course of its use in the UK.

METHODS:

We searched newspaper databases and press-clippings files for articles about Norplant printed between 1992 and 1996. For those that met our inclusion criteria, we extracted bibliographical data, made a standardised judgment about the "slant" of the article towards Norplant, and used qualitative techniques to analyse the content of the articles.

FINDINGS:

101 national newspaper articles were included in the study. Norplant attracted media coverage over the course of its career, but the slant of articles shifted dramatically over time from a favourable to a negative presentation. This reflected the use of different story types over the course of time. Early reports presented Norplant very positively as either a clear improvement on existing contraceptive methods or a valuable addition to the range. Any disadvantages were down-played. The positive image of Norplant was reinforced immediately after its official launch by reports that it was in great demand but women might be denied access to it. Less than a year later, however, newspaper reports about Norplant were dominated by the stories of individual women who had had bad experiences with the product.

INTERPRETATION:

Three main reporting themes were seen. At first, Norplant was presented as a positive new development, and one that might be denied to people. In later coverage it became a flawed and damaging product. These themes recur in media reporting of health technologies, and the fact that they occur at different stages in a product's career means that a balanced assessment of the technology is not usually feasible from media reporting at any one time. An appreciation of the forms and implications of these reporting frameworks could help health-care providers and users to appraise media reports more critically.

PMID:
10821380
DOI:
10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02226-1
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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