Study Finds Women’s Magazines Ignore Health Issues of Importance to African Americans

Crystal Lumpkins, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, has completed a study of coverage of women’s health issues in popular women’s magazines. Professor Lumpkins surveyed the editorial content of four popular magazines: Ms., Redbook, Good Housekeeping, and Essence. She found that these magazines ignored, for the most part, health issues of particular concern to African American women. Essence is largely targeted at African American women.

Professor Lumpkins stated, “The health stories that were most reported were on reproductive and sexual health. Diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, all of these major health issues in the African American community were not addressed.”

Dr. Lumpkins concludes by stating, “I hope people understand magazines are an important vehicle for health communication, not just to African American women, but women in general. Yes, they are traditional, but they’ve proven to be effective.”

Dr. Lumpkins holds a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia. She also earned a master’s degree in media communication and management from Webster University.

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  1. I would have to disagree as far as Essence goes. As a subscriber of 10 years, I have to say they do take time to focus on health issues. Now the page content might vary with each issue or perhaps year…as they have taken more of a financial approach due to the economy. Nonetheless, their tour dates and festival all incorporate women’s health.

    • This was a content analysis of only 6 months so your point is well taken. This release or headline is sort of misleading because of this reason. The sample showed that some of the major health issues that African American women are facing didn’t surface in these issues but the main point that should have been emphasized was the opportunity that these magazines have rather than the absence of stories. The original article emphasizes the opportunity that these magazines have when framing stories that include things such as spirituality or religion. I hope that helps.

  2. …so the moral of this story is just by Essence (or Ebony) and leave the other women’s magazines alone 🙂 .

    • No, definitely not and that’s a great point to bring up. We certainly need to do a larger study – a addition to the small sample that was analyzed. I believe that the moral of the story from this pilot study is that we can see an opportunity to reach African American women and Essence is certainly doing that. The study was one to see first of all what type of health stories surfaced and when they did, did spirituality and religion surface too. These are factors (spirituality and religion) that have been shown to be important to African American women. So, the moral of the story, in my opinion, is to get the word out (about health disparities) to as many magazines as possible so that they can reach us in an appealing and engaging way. That is certainly what Essence is doing – this sample just showed that the dosage was not equal to the disparity.

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