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Gesundheitswesen. 2018 Mar 16. doi: 10.1055/s-0044-101755. [Epub ahead of print]

[What Can Health Journalism Achieve? A Criterion-Based Evaluation of Print Media Coverage of the HPV Vaccine in Germany, 2006 to 2009].

[Article in German; Abstract available in German from the publisher]

Author information

AG Epidemiologie & International Public Health, Fakultät für Gesundheitswissenschaften, Universität Bielefeld.
Institut für Epidemiologie, Sozialmedizin und Gesundheitssystemforschung, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover.


in English, German


In 2006, the first human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was licensed in Europe and in 2007 it was included in the service catalogue of the statutory health insurance. The HPV vaccine led to a controversy in public and print media even before it was licensed. We evaluated the quality of the newspaper coverage of the HPV vaccine during the controversy in Germany.


The LexisNexis print media database was scanned for health journalism articles on HPV in 4 high-circulation national newspapers and 4 magazines using pre-defined search terms for the period 2006-2009. Articles were evaluated using established indicators and were graded using a decimal grading scale.


58 articles were identified and evaluated by 2 persons independently. The indicators reflecting health journalism quality received on average a grade of 4.6 out of 6. The major quality categories which give a comprehensive overview of the HPV vaccine scored low in the majority of the articles. Only categories like simplicity of language and structure/order scored high in most of them.


Compliance with established quality standards is an important basis of health journalism but seems difficult to achieve in the news coverage on the HPV vaccine. When applying the indicators to the HPV coverage, some avoidable deficiencies was identified from a public health perspective, relating in particular to the evidence base of the vaccination. Monitoring public health media can help to systematically identify information shortfalls or errors and respond with appropriate educational campaigns.


Conflict of interest statement

AKN und CO geben keine Interessenkonflikte an. OR war Coautor der Stellungnahme zur HPV-Impfung 2008.

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