News coverage about aspirin as a countervailing force against low-dose aspirin campaign promotion.


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.





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Publication Info

Southwell, Brian G, Sue Duval, Russell V Luepker, Niki Oldenburg, Jeremy Van't Hof, Milton Eder, Carol Russell, Robert N Graves, et al. (2021). News coverage about aspirin as a countervailing force against low-dose aspirin campaign promotion. Translational behavioral medicine, 11(10). pp. 1941–1946. 10.1093/tbm/ibab065 Retrieved from

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Brian Glen Southwell

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine

Dr. Brian Southwell is an adjunct professor with Duke's Department of Medicine and also has worked with the Social Science Research Institute and the Energy Initiative. Southwell directs the Science in the Public Sphere program at RTI International and also is a faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill. He hosts The Measure of Everyday Life, a weekly public radio show, is the author of Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health (Johns Hopkins University Press), and edited Innovations in Home Energy Use: A Sourcebook (RTI Press) and Misinformation and Mass Audiences (University of Texas Press).

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