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When doing nothing can cause harm
  1. J B Lowe
  1. Department of Community and Behavioral Health, Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center, 2850 Steindler Building, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA; john-lowe{at}

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    Newspapers may be a primary source of information for the general public, but they do little to educate the public about strategies to prevent injuries or reduce mortality.1 Research on newspaper clippings on unintentional injury events indicates that out of 577 articles reporting on motor vehicle accidents, only 3% mention alcohol use by the driver and 9% mention seat belt use.2

    To better understand this situation, we surveyed daily newspaper editors to determine their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about risk reporting, and to measure the extent to which they integrated risk reduction and injury prevention into their articles. We developed, piloted, and revised a survey instrument and emailed it to all daily newspaper editors in Iowa (n=33). One week later, we re-emailed each of the editors attaching the survey and restating its purpose. A total of four surveys and reminders were sent by both post and email. However, only seven editors (21%) responded—all indicating a lack of interest in injury control. As a result, we telephoned the remaining editors, leaving a minimum of four messages. We were able to contact only eight and none of these eight desired to complete the survey. Not only did the editors lack interest in the survey, some exhibited strongly negative attitudes to injury control.

    This experience suggests several conclusions. First, injury prevention is certainly not a priority. Second, the editors expressed little interest in learning about injury control. The exceptions were those with personal relationships with injury control personnel. Working with the media is an area that needs to be improved by injury control professionals. Third, if injury control is to remain in the newspapers, there may be a need to focus more on the use of paid advertisements/editorials to reach the reader.


    This project was funded by a grant from the National Center for Injury Prevention Control (NCIPC) at Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Susan Kinzer, MPH and Shelly Reich and comments by Professor Craig Zwerling and Associate Professor Corinne Peek-Asa on earlier drafts.


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