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///2018 Abstract Details
2018 Abstract Details2019-08-02T15:57:01-05:00

Disparity in Media Coverage: A comparative analysis of news coverage of maternal mortality and officer-involved shootings

Abstract Number: S1A-3
Abstract Type: Original Research

James Lozada D.O.1 ; Justin Nix Ph.D.2; Kristine Liao B.S.3; Robert J. McCarthy PharmD4; Jeanette R. Bauchat M.D., M.S.5

Introduction: The pregnancy-related mortality rate in the United States has doubled from 1990-2013, while dropping in other developed countries.1 Racial disparity has been demonstrated in both maternal mortality and fatal officer-involved shootings (OIS). News coverage sets the national agenda, influences policy-makers and guides funding decisions.2 We hypothesized that maternal mortality would be more common than fatal OIS but receive less media coverage.

Methodology: Media Cloud is a searchable archive of 250 million news stories spanning five years. The mainstream media database was searched for maternal mortality and fatal officer-involved shooting stories between Jan.1, 2016-Dec. 31, 2017. Total numbers of maternal deaths and officer involved shootings, and mortality rates and risk ratios stratified by race were calculated for both groups. The primary outcome was ‘coverage intensity’ quantified by the total number of sentences ratios between maternal mortality and OIS. Secondary outcomes included the media content analyzed by common words and themes.

Results: During the study period, 1,664 women died in childbirth; and 1,998 people were killed in officer-involved shootings. Nonetheless, the ratio of maternal mortality to officer involved death coverage was 1:12.2. In every media coverage parameter, fatal OIS were more frequently reported and shared (Table). Between 2016 and 2017 coverage of maternal mortality increased 25% while that of OIS decreased 50%.

Discussion: Surprisingly, the total number of fatal OIS and women who die in childbirth each year is nearly the same, yet media covers maternal deaths 12 times less often than OIS. A black woman is 60 times more likely to die during childbirth than from an officer-involved shooting, but the theme “blacks” occurred 80 times more often in coverage of OIS than in maternal mortality. Despite these deaths sharing public health concerns, news coverage exhibited limited overlap of words and themes. Obstetrical anesthesiologists must help engage journalists, the public and decision-makers to drive change and combat rising maternal deaths in the United States.


1. Collaborators GBDMM. Global, regional, and national levels of maternal mortality, 1990-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. Lancet 2016;388:1775-812.

2. Dorfman L, Krasnow ID. Public health and media advocacy. Annu Rev Public Health 2014;35:293-306.

SOAP 2018