Organized health promotion efforts sometimes compete with news media, social media, and other sources when providing recommendations for healthy behavior. In recent years, patients have faced a complicated information environment regarding aspirin use as a prevention tool for heart health. We explored the possibility that campaign promotion of low-dose aspirin use might have been undermined by news coverage in the USA detailing controversies regarding aspirin use. Using time series data on low-dose aspirin sales in Minnesota, USA, we assessed whether news coverage of aspirin or audience engagement with the Ask About Aspirin campaign website predicted subsequent changes in low-dose aspirin sales, over and above any secular trend. News coverage predicted actual low-dose aspirin purchases whereas exposure to a state-level campaign did not. While a campaign effort to encourage people at risk to discuss low-dose aspirin use with their health care providers did not generate substantive changes in low-dose aspirin tablet sales in the areas of Minnesota monitored for this study, past news coverage about aspirin use, including news about negative side effects, may have suppressed low-dose aspirin sales during this same period. The extent of news coverage about aspirin and heart health had a negative effect on tablet sales recorded in greater Minnesota approximately a month later in an ARIMA time series model, coefficient = -.014, t = -2.33, p = .02. Presented evidence of news coverage effect suggests health campaign assessment should consider trends in the public information environment as potential countervailing forces.
News coverage about aspirin as a countervailing force against low-dose aspirin campaign promotion
Southwell, B. G., Duval, S., Luepker, R. V., Oldenburg, N., Van't Hof, J., Eder, M., Russell, C., Graves, R. N., & Finnegan, J. (2021). News coverage about aspirin as a countervailing force against low-dose aspirin campaign promotion. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 11(10), 1941-1946. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibab065