What’s the Diagnosis? Latinos, Media & Health: A Series of Three Reports – Report

What’s the Diagnosis? A Series of Three Reports on Latinos, Media & Health

Summary of Key Findings

June 1998

Overview: A Series of 3 Reports

Latinos are disproportionately affected by some of the most serious health problems facing our country. They are more likely to be uninsured and face problems getting health care when needed. Young Latinos, in particular, are confronting very high rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Latinos have also been hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, and worry about its impact on their families and communities. Other medical conditions such as diabetes, tuberculosis, asthma, and certain cancers also disproportionately affect Latinos.

Studies show that many of the 29 million Latinos in the United States today rely on Spanish-language and other Latino-oriented media for information, particularly about health issues. At the same time, Latino-oriented media in this country have grown dramatically in numbers as well as in influence. Yet, as compared to the general market media, much less is known about the coverage of health (or other) issues in Spanish-language and other Latino-oriented media.

In a series of three reports, the Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent health care philanthropy, provides new insight into how health is covered by national and key regional Latino-oriented media, as well as the role of all media today as information sources for Latinos on important health issues:

  • A national and three-region survey of Latinos’ use of the media, including both general market and Spanish-language and other Latino-oriented media as a health information source. The survey also assesses Latinos awareness and concerns about key health issues.


  • A content analysis of news coverage of health issues in Latino-oriented newspapers, television, and radio news, focusing on the priority given to health in publications and programming in six major U.S. markets with large Latino populations (Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and San Francisco /San Jose).


  • A content analysis of Latino-oriented women’s and teen magazines that examines coverage of reproductive and sexual health issues.

Highlights: Key Findings from the 3 Studies

Latinos say they want more information about a broad range of health issues, including health policy changes (59%); Medicare (54%) and Medicaid (50%); the illness that most affect Latinos (58%), and testing, treatment and prevention of HIV (46%). And, they often look to the media as a resource on topics like these: majorities say within the last year they received at least some health information from television, newspapers, magazines, or radio.

While Latinos generally view the media favorably in terms of health coverage, they leave room for improvement. Many want more coverage on health overall as well as specific health and medical topics. Those who feel they are not getting enough information about specific health topics say the media should be doing more coverage of them.

Most Latinos say they prefer to turn to the general market media for health news (58%), but Latino-oriented publications and broadcast programs also play a significant role (38%), especially for those who primarily speak Spanish (68%).

When it comes to what is covered in Latino-oriented media – including newspapers, television, and radio – health is high on the news agenda. There were more stories about health than either immigration or education across all media studied. However, on television news, crime coverage exceeded health by a two to one margin, which mirrors what has been found in other studies of English-language local television. As is also true of general market media, diseases and medical conditions dominate health coverage in Latino-oriented media. Nearly nine out of every ten stories (87%) about health focused on a “disease or medical condition,” such as cancer (9% of health coverage) or HIV/AIDS (8%). Much of this coverage took a “news-you-can-use” kind of approach to providing information. Three out of every five health stories (60%) contained some consumer information, though background on policy was rare (6%).

In general, there was a consistent, though not driving, effort in the Latino-oriented media to relate health to the Latino population. The main focus of a health story, in one out of every eight (13%) cases, was presented as “Latino relevant,” that is included a Latino perspective or voice. Often the Latino connection was made by highlighting the impact of a particular health or medical condition on the population (12% of health coverage overall).

Planned pregnancy was the most common sexual health topic covered in Latino magazines.

The growing market of magazines aimed at Latino women and teens plays an important though limited role in providing reproductive and sexual health information specifically. Roughly one percent of all editorial content in these magazines were articles with a main focus on sexual health issues. However, a number of articles on other topics worked in information about contraception (15% of articles about sexual activity, but not sexual health), STDs (12%), and pregnancy (10%). As in a 1997 Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of comparable general market magazines, planned pregnancy was the most common sexual health topic covered, while unintended pregnancy and abortion were much less likely to be covered.

Survey Methodology

The Kaiser Family Foundation 1998 National and Three Region Survey of Latinos on the Media and Health is a random sample survey of 2,006 Latinos nationwide designed by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Princeton Survey Research Associates (PSRA), and conducted by PSRA by telephone between February 23 and April 12, 1998. Distinct random-sample surveys of 500 Latinos living in three regions of the United States – Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City metropolitan areas – were also conducted. Interviews were conducted in both Spanish and English (49% of the overall sample was interviewed in Spanish). The margin of error for the national sample (n=2000) is plus or minus 4%; for the Los Angeles sample (n=500) it is plus or minus 6%; for the Miami sample (n=500) it is plus or minus 5%; and for the New York City sample (n=500) it is plus or minus 7%. Weighting was used to correct for the geographic disproportionality introduced by the survey’s sample design. This introduced in higher sampling errors than would be associated with proportionate random-digit dial sample. A more detailed methodology is included in the full report.

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