Publications

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Big Soda's long shadow: news coverage of local proposals to tax sugar-sweetened beverages in Richmond, El Monte and Telluride

In 2012 and 2013, Richmond and El Monte, CA, and Telluride, CO, became the first communities in the country to vote on citywide sugary drink taxes. In the face of massive spending from the soda industry, all three proposals failed, but the vigorous public debates they inspired provide valuable insights for future policy efforts. BMSG analyzed local and national news coverage of the three proposals to find out what arguments were being made for and against the taxes, whose voices dominated the coverage, and what this means for advocates.

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Webinar: Social norms change and health equity

In this webinar, the second in a series from The California Endowment, BMSG Director Lori Dorfman and UC Berkeley doctoral candidate Katherine Schaff discuss lessons learned from advocates working to develop health-related media campaigns in Alameda County, California.

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Video: Soda & kids: A predatory relationship and how we can fight back

BMSG Director Lori Dorfman shares research on soda industry marketing in this panel, as part of a speaker series leading up to the November 2014 election, which featured soda tax ballot measures in Berkeley and San Francisco. Dorfman discusses how the soda industry has become the number one educator influencing what kids drink and the tactics it uses to target children of color.

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Video: Testimony of Pamela Mejia: How the news portrays domestic violence

At an October 14, 2014, hearing of the California Assembly Select Committee on Domestic Violence, BMSG Senior Media Researcher Pamela Mejia speaks about the influence of news coverage on the public's and policymakers' understanding of domestic violence and how to address it.

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Soda tax debates: An analysis of news coverage of the 2013 soda tax proposal in Telluride, Colorado

In 2013, the small mountain town of Telluride, Colorado, proposed a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. Like two similar soda tax measures that came before it in Richmond and El Monte, California, the proposal failed. In this report, we analyze what arguments were made for and against the tax in the news, whose voices dominated the conversation, and how coverage of Telluride compared with that of Richmond and El Monte. Read more >

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Food and beverage marketing to youth

What tactics are food and beverage companies using to target youth — especially youth of color — with marketing for unhealthy products? How do kids' brains respond to seeing food ads and logos? Is industry self-regulation working? In this paper, BMSG's Andrew Cheyne, Pamela Mejia, Laura Nixon and Lori Dorfman explore these questions and discuss implications for policy interventions.

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Webinar: Creating effective health messaging

In this webinar, as part of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky's Health for a Change series, BMSG trainers Julieta Kusnir and Fernando Quintero help participants understand message development; describe the difference between media advocacy and health education messaging; and discuss how advocates can frame their messages to show the environmental context for health and demonstrate the need for policy change.

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Video: Engaging communications to create healthy environments

In this July 23 presentation for the 2014 Colorado Health Symposium, BMSG Director Lori Dorfman discusses why health education and data don't go far enough toward improving health at the population-level, and how communication, particularly media advocacy, can be used to change policy and create environments that better support health for everyone.

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Communicating about health equity: Showing the bigger picture to build healthier communities

How do we make the case for implementing wellness policies, for improving menu selections and all of the other community-wide healthy policy changes we want to see? Many professionals are working on health equity issues but have a hard time talking about it. In this webinar, Berkeley Media Studies Group reviews tools to help groups that are working to reframe and effectively communicate the importance of their efforts.

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The debate on regulating menthol cigarettes: Closing a dangerous loophole vs freedom of choice

Stoking fears of job loss and strategically positioning itself on the side of civil rights groups, the tobacco industry influenced news coverage of mentholated cigarettes — which disproportionately impact the health of African Americans — to prevent a ban on them, found researchers at BMSG and the Public Health Advocacy Institute in a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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Video: Corporations, consumption and protecting public health

Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes cause 7 out of every 10 deaths in the United States. In this video, BMSG's Lori Dorfman and public health attorney Michele Simon join Nicholas Freudenberg, author of Lethal but legal: Corporations, consumption and protecting public health, to discuss how the business practices of alcohol, tobacco, food and other industries are causing these illnesses and what tools, including policy, advocates can use to prevent them.

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The origins of personal responsibility rhetoric in news coverage of the tobacco industry

To deflect blame for its products' health harms, the tobacco industry consistently frames smoking as a personal issue rather than the responsibility of cigarette companies. A study from BMSG and our colleagues at the Public Health Advocacy Institute, published in the American Journal of Public Health, identifies when personal responsibility framing became a major element of the industry's discourse and explores how its messages evolved over time to meet political and legal challenges.

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Public health and media advocacy

Media advocacy can bolster public health practitioners' efforts to advance social justice and work to solve some of our country's most complex social and political issues. In this article, published in the American Review of Public Health, BMSG's Lori Dorfman and Ingrid Daffner Krasnow discuss key components of media advocacy and offer tips for advocates, including framing pitfalls to avoid, ways to make data meaningful to broad audiences, and how to use compelling visuals to get a reporter's attention.

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Video: The power of the personal voice in media advocacy

Effective storytelling is an important way for advocates to bring media attention to important public health issues. As the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program's Genoveva Islas points out in this brown bag as part of BMSG's 20th anniversary series, if public health advocates don't tell their own stories, someone else will, but from a different perspective. Along with CCROPP's Brandie Banks-Bey, Islas shares three steps that advocates can take to get better at articulating the problems in their communities and what can be done to address them.

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Issue 21: Two communities, two debates: News coverage of soda tax proposals in Richmond and El Monte

In 2012, the California cities of Richmond and El Monte made headlines when they asked voters to consider taxing soda and other sugary drinks. Wanting to avoid a regulatory precedent, the soda industry spent $4 million to oppose the ballot measures, which ultimately failed. In this news analysis, we explore how the tax proposals were portrayed in the news, what arguments were made both for and against them, and what this means for public health advocates looking to regulate sugary beverages in other communities.

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Video: Beyond sound bites: The role of power in communication

Values are an important part of communicating, but where do they come from and how are they created? Who gets to matter in public conversations, and how can advocates make their voices more powerful? In this brown bag, a part of BMSG's 20th anniversary series, Praxis Project Executive Director Makani Themba discusses the role of institutional actors in producing values and encourages advocates to get involved in that process. She urges us to move beyond fleeting sound bites and develop a deeper communication strategy — one that addresses power imbalances and puts advocates in front of the mic.

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Why digital marketing is different
State law approaches to address digital food marketing to youth: Why digital marketing is different

With young people's growing use of digital devices, food and beverage companies are now able to target them in more ways than ever, often with deceptive content that makes it harder for youth to recognize as marketing. Some legal protections have yet to catch up with advances in digital marketing, but existing prohibitions on unfair and deceptive practices can be used to protect kids.

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digital food marketing to youth: Executive summary
State law approaches to address digital food marketing to youth: Executive summary

Digital food marketing to young children is not only inherently deceptive, it threatens kids' health. This report from the Public Health Advocacy Institute, Berkeley Media Studies Group and Center for Digital Democracy explores how state consumer protection law can be used to limit harmful digital food marketing to vulnerable child and teen consumers. Read the executive summary or download the full report >

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digital food marketing to youth: Full report
State law approaches to address digital food marketing to youth: Full report

The toll in human suffering and health costs from diet-related disease is stark. Addressing the digital marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to youth is a key step toward easing this toll and ensuring a healthy future. This report from the Public Health Advocacy Institute, Berkeley Media Studies Group and Center for Digital Democracy describes state legal approaches available to stem the harmful tide of digital food marketing targeted at children and teens.

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Gaming Report
State law approaches to address digital food marketing to youth: Gaming

Digital games are a popular tactic that food and beverage companies use to market unhealthy products to kids and teens. Research shows there is a connection between gaming and obesity, and advergames can have a harmful effect on kids' eating habits. However, the sheer volume of gaming platforms and apps makes state regulation a challenge.

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When prevention gets attention: News coverage of Minnesota's Statewide Health Improvement Program

In 2008, the Minnesota Legislature passed a ground-breaking health reform law that included a provision to address the root causes of poor heath, with the aim of reducing rising health care costs. In this news analysis, we assess how the program was framed in the media and offer recommendations to help public health advocates make the case for prevention.

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Webinar: Actions to reduce unhealthy food marketing to kids

Addressing food marketing is critical to improving child nutrition and health. This webinar, hosted by ASTHO, the Food Marketing Workgroup and NPLAN, and moderated by BMSG's Lori Dorfman, explores past challenges and victories to help advocates reduce junk food marketing to kids in the present.

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Cigarettes become a dangerous product: Tobacco in the rearview mirror, 1952-1965

Tobacco control's unparalleled success comes partly from advocates broadening the focus of responsibility beyond the smoker to include industry and government. How can public health advocates apply lessons from tobacco control to other efforts like the fight against harmful food and beverage industry products and marketing practices? A study we conducted with our colleagues from the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law offers insights.

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Video: The fight to reduce auto hazards

Automobiles are a major cause of injury and death, yet because they have long been a symbol of freedom and privacy in the United States, efforts to regulate them often meet resistance. Even basic protections like seat belts and airbags that we now take for granted were once contested. In this video as part of BMSG's 20th anniversary brown bag series, Ben Kelley, director of injury control policy at the Trauma Foundation, discusses the evolution of auto industry regulation and changes in the public's perception of and media reporting on the issue since the early 20th century. 

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Webinar: Talking about Health in All Policies

Communities across the U.S. are looking for ways to make sure health considerations are a part of all policy decisions. This requires collaboration and clear communication. In a webinar hosted by the Public Health Institute's Dialogue4Health, BMSG's Lori Dorfman and Ingrid Daffner Krasnow discuss how organizations can make the case for why Health in All Policies is essential to help protect physical and fiscal health, advance community engagement, and build relationships across government sectors.

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