|dc.description.abstract||Climate change is a major threat to public health both in New Zealand and abroad. Conversely, mitigation and adaption efforts offer numerous opportunities to improve health and equity. Despite this, comprehensive, government-led climate action is not forthcoming. The media plays an important role in shaping public opinion and support for policy change, and therefore may be critical for encouraging comprehensive climate action.
In this research I undertook a qualitative thematic analysis of climate change and public health media coverage within the New Zealand Herald Online and Scoop, in order to examine how the relationship between climate change and public health is reported within New Zealand online media. The main objectives were: to examine how the relationship between climate change and public health is framed in the New Zealand Herald Online; to compare this framing with that of the content published in independent news repository Scoop; and to outline recommendations for public health advocates and journalists based on my results. To achieve these objectives, I undertook a thematic analysis of data collected from the New Zealand Herald Online and Scoop and interpreted key thematic frames within both outlets. These were based on a number of frames identified in the previous literature, and were also developed inductively as I engaged with the data.
The overall thematic ‘story’ of each outlet was relatively similar. Content in both emphasised the negative threat that unchecked climate change poses to health. Press releases within Scoop were more likely to frame climate change in terms of the need for action and the possible health co-benefits of action, meaning the overall story in Scoop was more action-orientated and positive than in the New Zealand Herald Online. Coverage within both outlets framed ‘health’ in very limited terms and did little to discuss climate solutions that operate outside a free-market model of economic growth. Further, content in both outlets, Scoop in particular, emphasised contextually rich, de-personalised accounts of the health effects of climate change. Existing literature has suggested this impersonal and ‘boring’ framing may fail to capture audience attention about an already complex and largely ‘invisible’ issue. Public health advocates and journalists may wish to seek ways to make the issue of climate change and public health more personally relevant to New Zealand audiences, and more positive.
The results of my research suggest that as a mainstream media outlet, the New Zealand Herald Online does not drastically reframe the issue of climate change and public health from how it is portrayed within press releases in Scoop. Therefore, advocates may need to adapt how they frame their press releases, not only so that the issue is considered more ‘newsworthy’ to mainstream media outlets, but also to more effectively encourage public understanding of, and support for climate action.||