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A year in the public life of superbugs: News media on antimicrobial resistance and implications for health communications

Journal article
Authors Davis Mark
Benjamin Lyall
Andrea Wittaker
Mia Lindgren
Monika Djerf-Pierre
Paul Flowers
Published in Social Science and Medicine
ISSN 0277-9536
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Centre for antibiotic resistance research, CARe
Language en
Keywords superbugs, antimicrobial resistance, media, Australia
Subject categories Media and Communications, Sociology


News media can be an important source of information about emerging health threats. They are also significant sites for the production of narrative on threats to life that help to condition and reflect the responses of governments and publics. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one such health threat with particular significance because it represents the failure to manage the risks to antibiotics and other antimicrobials, health technologies that have provided the basis for modern medicine. Knowledge of how news media address this situation is an important element for an effective public health response to AMR and helps to extend the social analysis of health and media. Based on an analysis of television, printed and digital news for 2017 in Australia, this paper examines the patterns and meanings of AMR news. It shows that AMR is a fragmented story mainly framed by scientific discovery. These stories reassure audiences that science is seeking out the means of arresting AMR and, therefore, also constructs lay publics as passive witnesses to the AMR story. This pattern of AMR story-telling furthers the social standing of science and scientists, but it also neglects deliberation on collective action, important lacunae in the social response to AMR.

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