News coverage for the diabetes epidemic in Native American communities varies depending on the source of that news. The issue has been reported on by major national news sources, but local tribal or reservation newspapers and publications from national Native American news sources are responsible for the majority of media coverage. The content of these various publications varies depending on whether the report comes from one of the mainstream national news sources, like the New York Times, or a source intended for Native Americans specifically . This disparity in breadth and composition of media coverage for this deadly issue is the subject of this analysis.
We found almost 4,000 articles in Native American newspapers dealing with the the disproportionate prevalence of diabetes among Native Americans. Many of these articles appeared in newspapers made specific for members of a certain tribe, like Navajo Times in Arizona, The Ojibwe News in Minnesota, and The Seminole Tribune in Florida. Others were published in newspapers for those living on specific reservations, like the Wind River News, a newspaper that is distributed within the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.
Articles in local community or tribal newspapers typically are more focused on specific news stories relating to things like local diabetes prevention efforts or testimonials from diabetic community members. For example, the article “Diabetes Changes Health, Lifestyle of Tribal Seniors” appearing in the April 2010 issue of the Confederated Umatilla Journal, a newspaper serving the Umatilla Indian Reservation community, details the lengths that an elderly woman with diabetes named Joan Burnside must take in her daily life to cope with her disease. In a July 2011 article published in Navajo Times, Mark Creek discusses his hopes for the Tsehootsooi Medical Center and its ability to change the general attitude of most Native Americans towards their health. There is little emphasis in these articles, of which there are literally thousands, on spreading awareness about diabetes or reporting statistics, because in Native American communities the threat of diabetes is already well-established
National Native American Newspapers
In national Native American newspapers, the focus of several articles relating to diabetes is on legislative acts or national policy decisions regarding diabetes prevention. For example, in a December 2010 article in Indian Country Today, the primary national news source for most Native Americans, Rob Capriccioso reports on the Senate’s decision to renew funding for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians until 2013. This program sponsors community activities designed to promote awareness about diabetes prevention often Relevant medical innovations and advancements in diabetes treatment are also heavily featured in national Native American newspapers, as are calls for a better health-care system for Native Americans. Joe Garcia bases his argument for improved medical services in Native American communities on the shortcomings of what he calls “terrible health care” in his September 2008 article in Indian Country Today.
Mainstream National Newspapers
According to a 2010 Huffington Post article, the five most circulated newspapers in the country are The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. We were unable to find any articles published by any of these five newspapers with a subject pertaining to the prevalence of diabetes in Native American communities. The only articles that mention this health inequity issue at all are the ones more focused on diabetes medical research or diabetes trends for the entire American population. The diabetes epidemic is one of the most significant causes of death among Native Americans, but it is essentially absent from the mainstream media.
An analysis of the content of news coverage as it varies between local and national sources reveals definite trends of how the disproportionate prevalence of diabetes among Native Americans is being reported on. At the local level most of the news coverage relates to people or events specific to one community. At the national level there is hardly any mention of this health inequity at all. The best source of news on the diabetes epidemic are the national Native American newspapers that deal with issues relevant to all Native Americans across the country. These national Native American news sources most effectively raise awareness for the risks and potential prevention methods, and there is a large amount of reporting done on significant national diabetes policy, legislation, and organizations.