Background

Media can be defined as a tool that is used to store and distribute information. There are several types of media; news, advertising, print, electronic, mass, broadcast and many more. Health, on the other hand is defined as complete physical, social and mental well being of a person. Health does not necessarily mean that there is complete absence of disease. For a person to be considered healthy they need to have perfect social and mental structure.

Media has a major impact on health. It is through media that individuals can learn of an outbreak of a disease. A majority depend on the media to read about certain diseases and how they can be prevented. Media is also responsible in giving information as to where a person can seek medical health if they are suffering from a particular disease. One can find very many magazines that talk of different diseases, their symptoms, treatment and how to prevent one from the diseases. An example of a magazine that emphasizes on health issues is the Health Digest magazine. It teaches people on how to be healthy by eating the right kind of food. Today, one can find information about health via the internet. Doctors are treating their patients via the internet (Eriksson-Backa, 2003).

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Health also has an impact on the media. Currently, disease rates are rising and people are looking for ways to prevent themselves from these diseases. The media therefore, has the work of collecting data on reports concerning health issues. Thus for media, health is a source of income. Moreover, the health institutions make advertisements via the media to create awareness of a particular disease (Eriksson-Backa, 2003).

Statement of the problem

Do the media have a positive or negative impact on health issues? The media does impact on the knowledge of health among the people. It does have both the positive and negative impacts though. The media sometimes can put so much concentration on a particular disease making the general public to have the wrong conception of the disease. For example, constant reports of breast cancer have led to many people thinking that it is the major cause of death in Australian women. It has created so much anxiety in the people and many women under the age of forty are under pressure to seek mammogram check ups (Williams, 2002).

Media is also responsible for the increase of suicide levels. When media reports suicide cases it normally highlights on the method of suicide. This will definitely give a suicidal person the idea of how to commit suicide. After the publishing of the novel The Sorrows of Young Wether, 1774, the number of young men who shot themselves increased. The book described a young man who shot himself after his lover left him. This led to the ban of the book immediately. Another example is the increased number of suicides in New York City after the publication of the Final Exit. Many people killed themselves by using the methods that were described in the book. Televisions also encourage suicidal behavior. After reporting on suicidal cases, Philips showed an increase of seven to ten suicide cases. Currently, the internet is encouraging people to commit suicide by having websites that have suicide plans. Moreover, it does not touch on suicide unless a person has been involved. Its main concern is normally on the person who has committed suicide, the method used and place the act has occurred. It has the behavior of repeated reports on suicide cases especially involving celebrities. This influences the adolescents in committing suicide (Frendlin, 2003).

The media has also led to misunderstanding of what being healthy really entails. The media concentrates in bringing out celebrities who do not follow healthy methods of living to influence people. A number of thin models have made very many young women to engage in dieting to ensure that they are thin. The media tries to portray that thin is healthy while in the real sense, it is not. So much previewing of how successful this people have been because of their weight intimidates very many young women. It has contributed to the number of young ladies suffering from bulimia and anorexia nervosa to increase. Some of the diets that are published are not healthy and they lead to diseases like anemia, heart attacks, diabetes and ulcers (Jones, 2004).

Media is not all so negative about health because by making people aware about a particular disease, many become cautious and seek medical help or prevention immediately. Media has been used in campaigning about various diseases. For instance, it has been used to sensitize people about the issue of HIV/AIDS globally. It is responsible in advertising the preventive measures and where to get things like condoms and other preventive methods. It also helps in giving information on where one can seek treatment. Media has played an important role in ensuring that poor medical methods are revealed. It is responsible on reporting about doctors who treat their patients by giving them wrong medical attention. It also warns people on counterfeit medicine. It is via the media that the health organizations sensitize people on health issues (Frendlin, 2003).

Global picture of the relationship between media and health

Globally, the media is seen as the reason for expansion of poor health habits. A study was conducted and revealed that increased levels of marijuana use were as a result of the media’s extensive coverage on it. The news coverage impacted mostly on the adolescents. There was extreme news coverage on the reasons of abstinence of marijuana but that did not play a role in the abstinence from the drug in adolescents, instead there was an increase of in their use (Frendlin, 2003).

It is also reported that a very large number of people rely on the media to give information. Programs about health issues are a major concern to many. Health related programs are usually broadcast in the media. The people who give the health advice are very thin. This makes the audience to be intimidated thus start following health diets that cause serious health problem later in their lives.  More so, programs that are shown in the television influence health habits of very many individuals when it comes to drug use. Many young people get ideas on how to eat from the programs they watch. Programs portray that smoking and drinking is okay, this increases the potential of children to copy such behaviors (Frendlin, 2003).

On the contrary, the media is seen as being a positive instrument in attaining the health goals. For instance, in South Africa, the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS increased once the media started advertising the importance of their use. There is a very strong correlation between the media and influence on health issues. When issues concerning health are put up in the media, they need to be well frame do avoid misconception. Though the media has its own negative implications, the health sector relies on it for awareness (Frendlin, 2003).

Solutions

It is true that people do pay attention in what the media has to say about health. It is very important for the media to be sensitized on the implications of their work. Governments are supposed to play a vital role by devoting more resources in campaigning against certain diseases to avoid wrong messages by the media. The government should impose very strict rules and fines against wrong media information that leads to misconceptions. The government is also required to regulate the programs that are shown it televisions and the articles that are passed in the media.

The media needs to be sensitized about its implications it has on the general public when it comes to health issues. The media practitioners need to be taught on the subjects they should be involving themselves in. for example, the media needs to be warn against concentrating on suicidal cases but instead teach people on ways to avoid circumstances that can lead to such cases. The media is expected to concentrate on how individuals are supposed to prevent themselves from health hazards. The prevention matters need to have professional approval to avoid wrong follow up of health issues.

Lastly, the problem can be dealt with if both the government and the media develop a strong relationship. The government and the media can come together and ensure that they fight poor health habits together. The gap between the media and the government needs to be reduced by avoiding political issues when it comes to issues dealing with health.

References

Burke, W., 2001. Misleading Presentation of Breast Cancer in Popular Magazines- Effective Clinical Practice. vol. 4, pp. 58-64.

Eriksson-Backa, K., 2003. In Sickness and in Health- How Information and Knowledge are Related to Health Behavior-Finland.

Frendlin, S., 2003. Self-management- A new era dawns- Australian Journal of Primary Health. vol. 9 -2-pp. 22-24.

Frost, K., 1997. Relative risk in the news media-A quantification of misrepresentation- Journal of Public Health. Vol. 87-pp. 842-845.

Jones, S., 2004. Coverage of breast cancer in the Australian print media; does advertis and editorial coverage reflect correct social marketing messages? -Journal of Health Communication.vol.9-4-, pp.  1-17.

Kone, D., 1994. Societal risk perception and media coverage. Risk Analysis.vol 14, pp.21-24.

Williams, T., 2002. Women’s perceptions of familial aspects of breast cancer- Health Education- vol. 102-2, pp.50-59.

MedicineWorld Org. Media and Health. Retrieved from http://www.medicineworld.org 15th November 2008.

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