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OP93 Stakeholders’ framing of evidence about the uk sugar-sweetened beverage tax: a news media analysis
  1. S Hilton1,
  2. CH Buckton1,
  3. SV Katikireddi1,
  4. F Lloyd-Williams2,
  5. C Patterson1,
  6. L Hyseni2,
  7. A Elliott-Green2,
  8. S Capewell2
  1. 1MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Department of Public Health Policy, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK


Background In politically-contested health debates, such as sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxation, stakeholders seek to present evidence and arguments for or against the specific policy initiatives, based on their interests. The news media play a crucial role in shaping public opinion by selectively choosing which messages to focus on. While the literature suggests that media debates should be a key concern for those interested in understanding public health policy processes, as yet there has been only limited research in this area. This study examined how stakeholders’ positions and evidence on SSB taxation were represented in the media to inform SSB advocacy strategies.

Methods Quantitative and qualitative content analysis of 1632 articles about sugar consumption and SSB taxation published in eleven national UK newspapers, chosen for diversity in political views and genre. We conducted a systematic search of the Nexis database to identify all articles relating to SSBs published between 1 April 2015 and 30 November 2016.A coding frame was developed. Two reviewers then coded a 10% random sample of articles to ensure consistency in the definition and application of codes. All remaining articles were coded by one reviewer. Data were analysed thematically, following the principle of constant comparison and attention to contradictory data. We used Beauchamp’s theory of market justice and social justice frames to analyse stakeholders’ messages on SSB taxation.

Results A wide range of stakeholders sought to present evidence and arguments for or against SSB taxation. Stakeholder positions were largely shaped by their vested political interests. For example, corporate stakeholders were more likely to draw upon market justice frames promoting individual-level drivers for high rates of sugar consumption and individual-level solutions such as education. Whereas, public health advocates were more likely to draw upon social justice frames promoting population-level drivers for high sugar consumption and SSB taxation as a policy-level measure.

Conclusion There is a complex, poorly-understood, inter-dependency between the framing of evidence in public policy debates, media representations of this evidence and the influencing strategies used by stakeholders. These early insights into stakeholders’ framing of evidence, both scientific and non-scientific, in the case of SSB taxation could potentially inform wider debates about the media strategies of global producers and marketers of unhealthy commodities to ‘directly lobby’ the public.

  • Public Health Policy
  • Media content analysis
  • SSB taxation

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