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1.1 Background of the Study

The press plays a significant role in informing the public about health and medical issues (Moyer, 1995; Alexander, 2005; Thorson, 2006; cited in Rodney, 2010). It is obvious that the press performs necessary functions of providing information about new health dangers, disease outbreaks, domestic and international alerts, and healthy living. In order to learn about health issues, people look to numerous sources of news; newspapers, magazines, television, radio, the internet, friends, relatives or medical related report. (Rodney, 2010)

Women are often considered the healthcare givers in the family across the globe. (National Partnership for women and families, 2007) The multiple roles women play in the home profoundly influence the health of both their families and of themselves (Wyn, Ojeda, Ranji, & Saiganicoff, 2003). Researchers and health professionals argue that women often neglect their own health for a number of reasons, usually associated with their care-giving roles within the family. (Wyn, Ojeda, Ranji, & Saiganicoff, 2003).

Similarly, in the service of any development, media are agents of social change. The specific kind of change they are expected to accomplish is the transition to new customs and practices, and in some cases of different social relationship. For instance, Vescico Virginal Fistula (uncontrolled passage of Urine by young ladies), Fibroid, Genital Mutilation, Ovarian Cancer and Breast Cancer. These are some of the women health issues and their treatments constitute a great physical, psychosocial, and economic challenge. The Hallmarks of the diseases in Africa are patients presenting themselves at an advanced stage for treatment in hospitals. Awareness and knowledge of the said cases vary among communities and population groups worldwide. While studies conducted to assess the knowledge of fibroid and breast cancer among women have revealed satisfactory levels in some places, (Wyn, e tal 2003) other reports – especially from developing countries such as Nigeria – have revealed inadequate knowledge and awareness of the diseases (Adebamowo

  • Ajayi, , 2003; Adebamowo & Ajayi, 2000). The research (Press coverage of women health issues: A comparative analysis of Vanguard and Daily Trust newspapers, 2011-2012) moves further to know whether the Daily Trust and Vanguard newspapers cover women health issues either positively or negatively. Example of positive portrayal of women health issues include: the establishment of maternity health centers, adequate drugs, good family planning packages, etc. while the negative entails issues such as inadequate maternity health centers, inadequate drugs related to ante-natal, poor family planning packages, etc.

Again, breast cancer which is one of the major issues affecting women, constitutes a major public health issue globally, with over one million new cases diagnosed annually, resulting in over 400,000 annual deaths and about 4.4 million women living with the disease (Bray, McCarron, & Parkin, 2005; Dumitrescu & Cotaria, 2004). However, the mass media play a pivotal role in the development process of a country. They are generally regarded as channels of communication that are capable of reaching heterogeneous audiences simultaneously with uniform messages. In Nigeria, the media regularly cover all sorts of issues such as health, music, fine art, crime, sports, and political events ( Soola, 2003).

Also, it has the capabilities of transmitting ideas and new information to target audiences in the society through its function of educating, informing, and entertaining; as well as persuading its audience while serving as a catalyst for social mobilization. In other words, the mass media can be regarded as powerful sources of information because they have the capability to penetrate every segment of the society. They have the ability to disseminate messages about issues, ideas and products.

The traditional mass media usually consist of radio, television, newspaper, and magazine. The print media, like the other media, can be used to educate, enlighten, and mobilize people to a particular issue of national development. The print media primarily refers to newspapers and magazines, though other forms of print media include billboards, posters, handbills, pamphlets, and brochures. Two unique advantages of the print media are its permanence and the possibility of information custody and storage for close reading and future use. (Soola, 2007).

However, journalism as a profession has moved towards specialization in the news coverage of some key areas. It is pertinent to point out that newspapers readers want to be educated not just to be informed about events and social issues in their environment. This creates a lot of challenges for the journalist and journalism as a crucial institution which mediate between the individual readers and his or her society. Newspapers as an aspect of print media have been found to be an effective media in influencing the reading publics as well as opinion leaders on issues of public health (Evans & Ulasevich, 2005; cited in Rodney, 2010). Furthermore, a report evaluating print media reportage of issues like HIV, AIDS, TB and malaria in five Sub-Saharan African countries by Africa Women’s Media Center (AWMC,2004) have found very little coverage of health issues in the newspapers assessed, while newspapers are considered suitable for explanations and in-depth analysis.

The mass media will not only inform individuals about women health issues, but its message can also be used to influence individuals to action. The diffusion of innovation theory holds that the mass media can be a crucial component in influencing beliefs and attitudes that will eventually lead to a change in behavior. For example, magazines and specialized journals can publish photo reports on how women can engage in ante-natal examinations, fibroid examination, or even breast self-examinations. Furthermore, newspapers and magazines can apply the agenda-setting function in publishing news reports of the women health issues on the front and back pages. (Soola,2003).

1.2         Statement of the Problem

The media often take women’s health out of context while women are considered the decision-makers and healthcare givers in the family across the globe. (Ruzek, 1997). Similarly, the multiple roles women play in the home profoundly influence the health of both their families and themselves, as such, face a lot of challenges vis-a-vis increase in cases like Eclampsia, VVF (Vescico Virginal Fistula), Breast Cancer, Fibroid, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Candidiasis, Dysmenorrea, Genital Mutilation, Cervical Cancer and Ovarian Cancer. However, the rate at which women are dying is of high increase in Nigeria. (NPHCDA, 2014) More than two decades in the war against maternal deaths, Nigeria still has one of the worst maternal mortality statistics in the world, with the maternal mortality ratio of 545 per 100,000 births. Nigeria is second only to India in the global estimates of maternal death. India’s population however is eight times that of Nigeria. (WHO, 2013)

The media in Nigeria has been accused over the years for neglecting developmental issues especially things related to women health, in terms of the prominence given to the issue, the extent of the coverage as well as the pattern (the angle of a report; positive or negative) and focus more on politics and advertisements. Again, indigenous newspapers have been accused for not preparing their readers for the challenges of the 21st century. (Salau, 2006) Thus, the challenges of 21st century are issues of development, including health related issues.

It is against this background, the study therefore examines in comparative nature, the media coverage of women health issues vis-a-vis the positive/negative angle of the report.

1.3 Research Questions

The study is set to answer the following questions:-

  1. What is the extent of coverage of women health issues and other health issues by Vanguard and Daily Trust newspapers?
  2. What is  the  level  of  prominence  given  to  women  health  issues  by  Daily  Trust  and Vanguard newspapers?
  3. What type of women health issues is accorded the highest coverage between Daily Trust and Vanguard newspapers?
  4. What is the pattern (positive/negative angle) of coverage of women health issues by Daily Trust and Vanguard newspapers?

1.4 Aim/ Objectives of the Study

The study is aimed at examining the seriousness accorded to the coverage of women health issues by Nigerian print media. The specific objectives are as follows:

1-   The extent of coverage of women health issues and other health matters in two Nigerian newspapers. (Vanguard and Daily Trust)

2-   The level of prominence given to women health issues between the Daily Trust and Vanguard newspapers (in terms of size and placement).

3-   The kind of women health issues that has the highest coverage between Daily Trust and Vanguard newspapers.

4-The pattern (positive/negative angle) of coverage of women health issues by Daily Trust and Vanguard newspapers

1.5 Significance of the Study

Several researchers have used content analysis to study health related research issues for instance, Bonnie and George 1975 discussed the role of radio and television in the announcements of family planning. Singh Archna 2007 studied the role of mass communication in prevention and control of AIDS using content analysis. Faber 1974. Marianne, 1991, Rodney, 2010 conducted studies on some aspect of reproductive health issues without analyzing the pattern as well as the extent of the coverage by the researchers. This therefore, indicates the gap in knowledge of the study. However, there is a greater demand and need for relevant analysis of public health information about issues generally affecting women in terms of prominence and the pattern of coverage towards bridging the gap in knowledge. (Gupta and Sinha, 2010:7). Bryant and Thompson, cited in Gupta and Sinha, 2010) are of the view that ―news coverage of health matters take on considerable significance, in that it has the potential to shape the impressions of average citizens and powerful policy makers alike. This can be done inline with the agenda setting theory.

Similarly, this study is in line with the strategic objectives of the WHO, USAID and MDGs’ whose mission is to improve maternal health before 2015. It will also move further to promote effective advocacy for women health issues in print media.

1.6 Scope of the study

This study, press coverage of women health issues in some selected newspapers involved the assessment of two purposively selected Nigerian newspapers namely: Daily Trust and the Vanguard newspapers. The study covered a two-year period from January 2011 to December 2012 as MDGs’ targeted year approaches. Similarly, Nigeria is one of the world’s countries whose mission is to accomplish MDGs goals before 2015. The two years period of study falls within the targeted years, thus, the media are expected to cover women health issues and other health issues towards achieving the MDGs goals as indicated in goal number five (5), which says ―to improve maternal health‖.

The basis of conducting the study is to see the extent to which women health issues are covered and portrayed by the identified newspapers. More specifically, the study has concentrated on parameters such as frequency of coverage, prominence accorded women health issues, format of presenting, and the nature of the coverage, excluding advert.

The researcher covered the editions of the newspapers published for 24 months, which is from January 2011 to December 2012.The study is delimited to the coverage of women health issues. The sampling technique adopted is that of the nth element whereby a skip interval of six edition is adopted, and the seventh edition is selected.

1.7 Limitation of the study

The researcher was not able to analyze the whole issues related to women, rather, limited the research to ten common issues related to women health; during pregnancy or child birth. This is due to constraint of time and money. Also the researcher used two coders to analyze the newspapers. In the process of gathering the data one of the coders found the filling of the coding sheet very difficult as such, the coder was replaced by another well trained coder.

1.8    Operational Definition

Maternal Death. Death in pregnancy or child birth

Eclampsia (EC) It is disorder seen in 6% of pregnant women. It is characterized by symptom complex of Hypertension (sustained rise in blood pressure), proteinurin (protein in urine) and edema (swelling of the body due to fluid accumulation).

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) Is a common disorder characterized by pelvic pain, tendencies, fever and vaginal discharge resulting from infection.

Breast Cancer (BC): This is cancer of the breast and it is the most common cancer seen in women.

Genital Mutilation (GM): Female genital cutting; female circumcision.

Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF): A female acquired diseases of fistula (open connection) mostly between the bladder and vagina caused by child birth, resulting to uncontrolled passage of urine.

Candidiasis (CD): It is an infection of mucocutaneous membranes (skin) mostly warm and moist surface. When it affects the mouth it is called Oral thrush. When it affects the vagina it is called Vaginitis.

Dysmenorrea (DY): This is a pain in the pelvic experienced by 20-25% of menstruating women. It is also called menstrual pain.

Cervical Cancer (CC): It is cancer of the cervix which may be caused by many factors such as multiple sexual partners, contraceptive pills and could also be inherited.

Fibroid (FB): These are benign (non cancerous) tumors typically found in middle aged later reproductive years in female.

Ovarian Cancer (OC): Cancer of the ovary.

Diabetes Mellitus (DM): This is a disease characterized by elevated sugar in the blood mostly seen in elderly people and pregnant women.

Hypertension (HP): It is a sustained blood pressure more common in elderly people and pregnant women.

Malaria Fever (MF):  A fever  caused  by plasmodium parasite transmitted by female anopheles mosquito bite.

OsteoArthritis (OA): Joint pain mostly seen in obsessed, elderly and sport people.

Pneumonia (PN): A respiratory track infection caused by many micro organisms mostly as a result of exposure to cold.

Tuberculosis (TB): A respiratory track infection caused by micro organism as a result of drinking unpasteurized cow milk and inhalation of micro organism from duplets from infected person.

Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD): Infection mostly acquired through unprotected sex with and infected individual. Eg gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, etc.

Ulcer (UC): A wound in the gastro-intestinal system (stomach intestine) which may be caused by many factors such as stress, infection by helicobacter pylori or use of Non Streoidal antro inflammatory drugs (NSAID) analgesics eg ibuprofen, paracetamol.

Sickle  Cell  anaemia  (SC):  An  inherited  disease  of  the  blood  which  presents  with systematic symptom.

Hepatitis (HP): Infection of the liver mostly caused by virus. (Kumar,  Abbas and Fausta, 2006).

Women health issues: For this study, we are referring to Eclampsia, VVF (Vescico Virginal Fistula), Breast Cancer, Fibroid, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Candidiasis, Dysmenorrea, Genital Mutilation, Cervical Cancer and Ovarian.

Other Health Issues: For this study, we are referring to Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, Malaria Fever, OstheoArthritis, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Ulcer, Sickle Cell Anaemia, and Hepatitis.

Empowerment: Free medical care.

Positive angle: For this study, a positive angle entails a report in favour of women health; whether a report portrays, the establishment of maternity health centers, adequate drugs, good family planning packages, etc. For instance, Vanguard of February, 2012 page 12 reads as “Delta archives 48.5 % reduction on maternal mortality ratio”.

Negative Angle While the negative angle entails issues covered by the newspapers not in favor of women health, such as inadequate maternity health centers, inadequate drugs related to ante-natal or poor family planning packages. for instance, Daily trust of Tuesday, February-28, 2012, page 39 edition. The headline reads as “Why maternal infant deaths still high?.‖ Another negative angle covered on 21st May, 2012 reads as ―50% of Abia population hypertensive

Coverage: The number of percentage of columns, pages covered by the newspapers, position or placement of story in the newspaper (prominence)

Framing: refers to the selection and emphasis of certain aspects of issues.


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