From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Rapid Response: Understanding emerging health debates

Epidemiological and biomedical discoveries are not in themselves enough to transform and improve public health. How health information is communicated and how people understand emerging public health issues and new policies are crucial to getting the most value out of these discoveries. In this theme, we investigate both media representations and public understandings of emerging health debates.

Media reporting of health-related news stories and health policies can be highly influential in shaping how people understand and use public health knowledge. The public are exposed via the written and broadcast mass media (including the internet) to a vast array of findings from medical research. Much of this material stems from epidemiological research and deals with everyday risks (e.g. smoking, diet, where you live), while some deals with novel risks. Increasingly the relationship between science, the media and public opinion has been the centre of debate, recent high profile examples include: the swine flu pandemic, the MMR ‘controversy’, the BSE ‘crisis’, and the GM food debate. Whilst public understandings of health and illness cannot be attributed solely to the media since audiences filter what they read, see and hear through personal knowledge and experiences, it is widely recognised that the media influence people’s beliefs and health-related behaviours. As part of the MRC’s commitment to engage with the public on the issues in science that matter to them, and to engage in the timely translation of scientific knowledge we aim to respond quickly to investigate media constructions of, and communications about, public health issues that become newsworthy, and to disseminate findings to the public and key stakeholders.

Within this programme we have also researched lay perceptions and experiences of a range of contemporary, and sometimes controversial, health issues including: the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) ‘crisis’; the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) childhood vaccination controversy; food scares; the swine flu pandemic; vaccine-preventable diseases; childhood and adolescent vaccination; obesity; cancer; inheritance of illness; and coronary heart disease. We have also investigated people’s understandings of and attitudes towards health policies which attracted public debate including: school nurses’ experiences of implementing the HPV vaccination programme, barworkers’ experiences of the Scottish smoke-free legislation and public perceptions of vaccination for the swine flu pandemic. The current work in this theme builds on our past work to investigate people’s understandings and experiences of emerging public health issues and policy in order to promote timely public dialogue. We continue to have a particular focus on those issues which could derail effective public health interventions or undermine public confidence in health research and on new technologies to engage with health.

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Publications

2015

Katikireddi SV, Hilton S. How did policy actors use mass media to influence the Scottish alcohol minimum unit pricing debate? Comparative analysis of newspapers, evidence submissions and interviews. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy 2015;22:125-134

open access  

Patterson C, Katikireddi SV, Wood K, Hilton S. Representations of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in UK newspapers: a case study of a public health policy debate. Journal of Public Health 2015;37:40-9

open access  

2014

Hilton S, Wood K, Bain J, Patterson C, Duffy S, Semple S. Newsprint coverage of smoking in cars carrying children: a case study of public and scientific opinion driving the policy debate. BMC Public Health 2014;14:1116

open access  

Hilton S, Wood K, Patterson C, Katikireddi SV. Implications for alcohol minimum unit pricing advocacy: what can we learn for public health from UK newsprint coverage of key claim-makers in the policy debate?. Social Science & Medicine 2014;102:157–164

open access  

Martin S, McDaid LM, Hilton S. Double-standards in reporting of risk and responsibility for sexual health: a qualitative content analysis of negatively toned UK newsprint articles. BMC Public Health 2014;14:792

open access  

Purcell C, Hilton S, McDaid LM. The stigmatisation of abortion: a qualitative analysis of print media in Great Britain in 2010. Culture, Health & Sexuality 2014;16:1141-55

open access  

Wood K, Patterson C, Katikireddi SV, Hilton S. Harms to ‘others’ from alcohol consumption in the minimum unit pricing policy debate: a qualitative content analysis of UK newspapers (2005-2012). Addiction 2014;109:578–584

pubmed  

2013

Hilton S, Patterson C, Smith E, Bedford H, Hunt K. Teenagers' understandings of and attitudes towards vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases: a qualitative study. Vaccine 2013;31:2543–2550

open access  

Martin S, Hilton S, McDaid LM. United Kingdom newsprint media reporting on sexual health and blood-borne viruses in 2010. Sexual Health 2013;10:546-552

open access  

Patterson C, Hilton S. Normalisation and stigmatisation of obesity in UK newspapers: a visual content analysis. The Open Obesity Journal 2013;5:82-91

open access  

2012

Hilton S, Patterson C, Teyhan A. Escalating coverage of obesity in UK newspapers: the evolution and framing of the ‘obesity epidemic’ from 1996 to 2010. Obesity 2012;20:1688-1695

pubmed  open access  

MacCalman L, Semple S, Galea KS, Van Tongeren M, Dempsey S, Hilton S, Gee I, Ayres JG. The relationship between workers’ self-reported changes in health and their attitudes towards a workplace intervention: lessons from smoke-free legislation across the UK hospitality industry. BMC Public Health 2012;12:324

pubmed  open access  

2011

Gray C M, Hunt K, Lorimer K, Anderson AS, Benzeval M, Wyke S. Words matter: a qualitative investigation of which weight status terms are acceptable and motivate weight loss when used by health professionals. BMC Public Health 2011;11:513

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Hilton S, Hunt K, Bedford H, Petticrew M. School nurses' experiences of delivering the UK HPV vaccination programme in its first year. BMC Infectious Diseases 2011;11:226

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Hilton S, Hunt K. UK newspapers' representations of the 2009-2010 outbreak of swine flu: one health scare not over-hyped by the media?. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 2011;65:941-6

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Hilton S, Smith E. 'I thought cancer was one of those random things. I didn't know cancer could be caught…' adolescent girls' understandings and experiences of the HPV programme in the UK. Vaccine 2011;29:4409-15

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Sim JA, Ulanikaa AA, Katikireddi SV, Gorman D. 'Out of two bad choices, I took the slightly better one': vaccination dilemmas for Scottish and Polish migrant women during the H1N1 influenza pandemic. Public Health 2011;125:505-11

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2010

Hilton S, Hunt K, Langan M, Petticrew M. Newsprint media representations of the introduction of the HPV vaccination programme for cervical cancer prevention in the UK (2005-2008). Social Science & Medicine 2010;70:942-50

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Hilton S, Hunt K. Coverage of Jade Goody's cervical cancer in UK newspapers: a missed opportunity for health promotion?. BMC Public Health 2010;10:386

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Hilton S, Smith E. Public views of the UK media and government reaction to the 2009 swine flu pandemic. BMC Public Health 2010;10:697

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2009

Ayres J, Semple S, MacCalman L, Dempsey S, Hilton S, Hurley J, Miller BG, Naji A, Petticrew M. Bar workers' health and environmental tobacco smoke exposure (BHETSE): symptomatic improvement in bar staff following smoke-free legislation in Scotland. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2009;66:339-46

pubmed  open access  

2008

Davidson R, Mitchell R, Hunt K. Location, location, location: the role of experience of disadvantage in lay perceptions of area inequalities in health. Health & Place 2008;14:167-181

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Hilton S, Cameron J, MacLean A, Petticrew M. Observations from behind the bar: changing patrons' behaviours in response to smoke-free legislation in Scotland. BMC Public Health 2008;8:238

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2007

Hilton S, Hunt K, Petticrew M. Gaps in parental understandings and experiences of vaccine-preventable diseases: a qualitative study. Child: Care, Health and Development 2007;33:170-179

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Hilton S, Hunt K, Petticrew M. MMR: marginalised, misrepresented and rejected? Autism: a focus group study. Archives of Disease in Childhood 2007;92:322-327

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Hilton S, Petticrew M, Hunt K. Parents' champions vs. vested interests: who do parents believe about MMR? A qualitative study. BMC Public Health 2007;7:42

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Hilton S, Semple S, Miller BG, MacCalman L, Petticrew M, Dempsey S, Naji A, Ayres JG. Expectations and changing attitudes of bar workers before and after the implementation of smoke-free legislation in Scotland. BMC Public Health 2007;7:206

pubmed  open access  

Langan M. A contemporary history of the origins and development of UK Biobank, 1998-2005 [PhD], MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit 2007.

open access  

Petticrew M, Semple S, Hilton S, Creely K, Eadie D, Ritchie D, Ferrell C, Christopher Y, Hurley F. Covert observation in practice: lessons from the evaluation of the prohibition of smoking in public places in Scotland. BMC Public Health 2007;7:204

pubmed  open access  

Semple S, Maccalman L, Naji Audrey A, Dempsey S, Hilton S, Miller B, Ayres JG. Bar workers' exposure to second-hand smoke: the effect of Scottish smoke-free legislation on occupational exposure. Annals of Occupational Hygiene 2007;51:571-580

pubmed  open access  

2006

Davidson R, Kitzinger J, Hunt K. The wealthy get healthy, the poor get poorly? Lay perceptions of health inequalities. Social Science & Medicine 2006;62:2171-2182

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Emslie C, Hunt K. Genetic susceptibility. In: Clarke A, Ticehurst F, editors Living with the Genome: ethical and social aspects of human genetics. Houndsmill, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006:102-107.

Hilton S, Petticrew M, Hunt K. Combined vaccines are like a sudden onslaught to the body's immune system: parental concerns about vaccine overload and immune-vulnerability. Vaccine 2006;24:4321-4327

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Macintyre S, McKay L, Ellaway A. Lay concepts of the relative importance of different influences on health: are there major socio-demographic variations?. Health Education Research 2006;21:731-9

pubmed  open access  

2005

Hilton S. Parental perceptions of childhood immunisation in the context of the MMR controversy [PhD], MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit 2005.

Macintyre S, McKay L, Ellaway A. Are rich people or poor people more likely to be ill? Lay perceptions, by social class and neighbourhood, of inequalities in health. Social Science & Medicine 2005;60:313-317

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Macintyre S, McKay L, Ellaway A. Who is more likely to experience common disorders: men, women, or both equally? Lay perceptions in the West of Scotland. International Journal of Epidemiology 2005;34:461-466

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2003

Davidson R J C. Representations and lay perceptions of inequalities in health: an analysis of policy documents, press coverage and public understandings [PhD], MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit 2003.

Emslie C, Hunt K, Watt G. A chip off the old block? Lay understandings of inheritance amongst men and women in mid-life. Public Understanding of Science 2003;12:47-65

2002

Emslie C, Hunt K, Watt G. Invisible women? The importance of gender in lay beliefs about heart problems. In: Nettleton S, Gustafsson U, editors The sociology of health and illness reader. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002:146-161.

2001

Emslie C, Hunt K, Watt G. 'I'd rather go with a heart attack than drag on' lay images of heart disease and the problems they present for primary and secondary prevention. Coronary Health Care 2001;5:25-32

Emslie C, Hunt K, Watt G. Invisible women? The importance of gender in lay beliefs about heart problems. Sociology of Health & Illness 2001;23:201-231

open access  

Hunt K, Emslie C, Watt G. Lay constructions of a 'family history' of heart disease: potential for misunderstandings in the clinical encounter?. The Lancet 2001;357:1168-1171

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McConnachie A, Hunt K, Emslie C, Hart C, Watt G. 'Unwarranted survivals' and 'anomalous deaths' from coronary heart disease: prospective survey of general population. BMJ 2001;323:1487-1491

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Michael M , Carter S. The facts about fictions and vice versa: public understanding of human genetics. Science as Culture 2001;10:5-32

2000

Hunt K, Davison C, Emslie C, Ford G. Are perceptions of a family history of heart disease related to health-related attitudes and behaviours?. Health Education Research 2000;15:131-143

pubmed  open access  

Hunt K, Emslie C, Watt G. Barriers rooted in biography: how interpretations of family patterns of heart disease and early life experiences may undermine behavioural change in mid-life. In: Graham H, editor Understanding health inequalities. Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000:113-126.