The Fund supports several networks of state health policymakers to help identify, inspire, and inform policy leaders.
The Fund identifies and shares policy ideas and analysis on topics important to state health policymakers, particularly on issues related to state leadership, primary care, aging, and health care costs.
Keep up with news and updates from the Milbank Memorial Fund. And read the latest blogs from our thought leaders, including Fund President Christopher F. Koller.
The Fund publishes The Milbank Quarterly, as well as reports, issues briefs, and case studies on topics important to health policy leaders.
The Milbank Memorial Fund is an endowed operating foundation that publishes The Milbank Quarterly, commissions projects, and convenes state health policy decision makers on issues they identify as important to population health.
Erika Franklin Fowler
Laura M. Baum
Sarah E. Gollust
Back to The Milbank Quarterly
Context: Political discourse is one way that policymakers and candidates for public office discuss societal problems, propose solutions, and articulate actionable policies that might improve population health. Yet we know little about how politicians define and discuss issues relevant to population health in their major source of electoral communication, campaign advertisements. This study examined the prevalence of references to population health–relevant issues conveyed in campaign advertising for political office at all levels of government in the United States in 2011‐2012 and 2015‐2016. Understanding advertising as part of the political discourse on topics of relevance to population health yields insights about political agenda‐setting and can inform efforts to shape opinion.
Methods: We conducted a content analysis of all English‐language, candidate‐related campaign advertisements aired on local broadcast, national network, and national cable television in the 2011‐2012 and 2015‐2016 election cycles (3,980,457 and 3,767,477 airings, respectively). We analyzed the volume of coverage in these ads about issues relevant to population health, including narrowly defined public health issues as well as a broad range of other social, economic, and environmental factors that affect population health.
Findings: Across both election cycles and all electoral races, 26% of campaign advertising discussed issues relevant for the narrowly defined conceptualization of public health and 57% discussed issues pertinent to topics within the more expansive population health conceptualization. There was substantial variation in population health–related content in ads across election cycles, by level of political office, political party, and geographic area. Geographic variation indicates that where a person lives affects their potential exposure to political communication about various health‐related topics.
Conclusions: Political campaign ads in the United States frequently referenced population health–relevant content at all levels of government, although the ads rarely connected population health–relevant issues to health. Variation in volume and content of these references likely shaped public opinion and the public will to address population health–related policy.
Keywords: campaign advertising, social determinants of health, politics, population health, public health, media, public opinion.
Download the Article
Read on Wiley Online Library
Published in 2019 DOI: 10.1111/1468-0009.12427
Apr 6, 2021
Mar 30, 2021
Get the Latest from the Milbank Memorial Fund
The Milbank Quarterly’s multidisciplinary approach and commitment to applying the best empirical research to practical policymaking offers in-depth assessments of the social, economic, political, historical, legal, and ethical dimensions of health and health care policy.