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Here today, gone tomorrow: The issue attention cycle and national print media coverage of prescription drug financing in Canada


  • Daw, Jamie R.
  • Morgan, Steven G.
  • Thomson, Paige A.
  • Law, Michael R.


Canada is the only developed country that has established universal coverage for hospital care and physician services that excludes medically necessary prescription drugs. Lack of public interest in expanding universal coverage to prescription medicines may be one critical factor in explaining this policy puzzle. Historical levels and patterns of attention to financing issues in the media may have implications for public awareness and support for such major health reform. We thus examined the quantity, context, and patterns of coverage of public drug financing in national print media in Canada from 1990 to 2010. We conducted a time series analysis of monthly newspaper article counts to quantify trends in coverage and analyzed article content by applying Down's theory of the “issue-attention cycle” of political attention. We found that baseline coverage of this issue was low throughout the past twenty years with few cycles of increased attention, initiated by focusing events related to general health reform. Issue-attention cycles were driven by coverage of proposed policy solutions simultaneously accompanied by lower levels of coverage of policy problems and barriers to change, before fading rapidly from attention. The observed patterns of media coverage and the intrinsic characteristics of this policy issue suggest that any momentum for reform (or lack thereof) is likely to be driven by elite members of the policy community rather than by way of public engagement. This has implications for the probability of reform and which options may be considered or eventually implemented, as policies developed within elite policy communities may tend to reflect niche interests rather than being reflective of principled policy goals.

Suggested Citation

  • Daw, Jamie R. & Morgan, Steven G. & Thomson, Paige A. & Law, Michael R., 2013. "Here today, gone tomorrow: The issue attention cycle and national print media coverage of prescription drug financing in Canada," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 110(1), pages 67-75.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:hepoli:v:110:y:2013:i:1:p:67-75
    DOI: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2013.01.006

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kapur, Vishnu & Basu, Kisalaya, 2005. "Drug coverage in Canada: who is at risk?," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 181-193, February.
    2. Benelli, Eva, 2003. "The role of the media in steering public opinion on healthcare issues," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 179-186, February.
    3. Hayes, Michael & Ross, Ian E. & Gasher, Mike & Gutstein, Donald & Dunn, James R. & Hackett, Robert A., 2007. "Telling stories: News media, health literacy and public policy in Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(9), pages 1842-1852, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wang, Chao & Li, Qing & Sweetman, Arthur & Hurley, Jeremiah, 2015. "Mandatory universal drug plan, access to health care and health: Evidence from Canada," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 80-96.


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