[PCST] Study: Re-Framing Climate Change as a Public Health Issue

Matthew C. Nisbet nisbetmc at gmail.com
Tue Jul 20 23:17:02 CEST 2010


Dear PCST readers:

A study published this month at *BMC Public Health* with several colleagues
at George Mason University may be of interest as it evaluates how Americans
react to information about climate change when the issue is framed in the
context of public health.

Below I have pasted the link and lede to a blog post I put together on the
study followed by the abstract and link to the open-access article.

*Study: Re-Framing Climate Change as a Public Health Issue*

http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2010/07/study_re-framing_climate_chang.php

WASHINGTON, DC -- How do Americans respond when they are asked to reflect on
the public health risks of climate change and the benefits to health from
mitigation-related actions? In other words, if we were to re-frame climate
change in terms of localized impacts that people personally experience and
can understand--such as vulnerability to extreme heat or poor air
quality--could we shift public thinking on the issue? Those are the
questions that I examine with Ed Maibach and colleagues in a study published
this month at the open access journal *BMC Public Health*.

We find that even Americans who tend to discount climate change or are
ambivalent about its relevance react favorably when the issue is re-framed
in the context of public health. Our results suggest that when it comes to
public engagement, health experts have an important perspective to share
about climate change. This still dramatically under-communicated perspective
offers Americans a compelling way to think about an issue that has proven
deeply difficult for many people to fully comprehend. The new frame of
reference also focuses on a range of possible policy actions that offer
local as well as global benefits.

*Maibach, E., Nisbet, M.C. et al. (2010). Reframing Climate Change as a
Public Health Issue: An Exploratory Study of Public Reactions. BMC Public
Health 10: 299.*

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/299

*Abstract*

*Background*

Climate change is taking a toll on human health, and some leaders in the
public health community have urged their colleagues to give voice to its
health implications. Previous research has shown that Americans are only
dimly aware of the health implications of climate change, yet the literature
on issue framing suggests that providing a novel frame - such as human
health - may be potentially useful in enhancing public engagement. We
conducted an exploratory study in the United States of people's reactions to
a public health-framed short essay on climate change.

*Methods*

U.S. adult respondents (n = 70), stratified by six previously identified
audience segments, read the essay and were asked to highlight in green or
pink any portions of the essay they found "especially clear and helpful" or
alternatively "especially confusing or unhelpful." Two dependent measures
were created: a composite sentence-specific score based on reactions to all
18 sentences in the essay; and respondents' general reactions to the essay
that were coded for valence (positive, neutral, or negative). We tested the
hypothesis that five of the six audience segments would respond positively
to the essay on both dependent measures.

*Results*

There was clear evidence that two of the five segments responded positively
to the public health essay, and mixed evidence that two other responded
positively. There was limited evidence that the fifth segment responded
positively. Post-hoc analysis showed that five of the six segments responded
more positively to information about the health benefits associated with
mitigation-related policy actions than to information about the health risks
of climate change.
-- 
matthew c. nisbet, ph.d.
associate professor | school of communication | american university
4400 massachusetts avenue, nw | d.c. 20016 |
cell/text: 202.316.5814 | office: 202.885.2104 |  fax: 202.885.2019
web: http://www.american.edu/soc/faculty/nisbet.cfm



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