Each annual edition of the Quiral Report is a new opportunity to reflect on how a specific health topic is communicated to society. This year, the Quiral Report 2018 (in Spanish), entitled “Women, health and communication” has echoed the social clamor, increasingly visible, which asks for full gender equality.
The report, carried out by the Center for Science, Communication and Society Studies of the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, Pompeu Fabra University (DCEXS-UPF), had the objective of analyzing whether the media incorporate the gender vision in the news; that is, whether they include data, images or information that help to understand how diseases affect men and women differently, and what aspects can be taken into account to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment, taking care of these differential features. The results obtained from the analysis of the news from 2018 have been compared with those of a study carried out between 1997 and 2001.
In particular, the report has studied:
- Inclusion of the gender perspective in health articles
- Gender biases in the use of language and images
- Presence of expert women as sources of information
- Case analysis
- Google searches
You can read more about the results of each section in the news in Catalan.
Conclusions and recommendations
The report concludes that even though the media has taken a higher gender perspective when reporting news in 2018 than it did 20 years ago, there are still unjustifiable deficits and bad practices that foster inequalities, as well as improper uses of language and images that lead to sterotypes. It also higlights the importance of correcting these issues, given the great potential for influence in the formation of opinions and attitudes that mass media have.
In light of these results, the Quiral Report proposes a series of recommendations, both for journalism professionals and the medical and health community:
- Give more visibility to female health problems, ensure they are as present in the media agenda as those of men – as well as in the social, political and health agenda. When talking about a disease or health problem, we must ask: are the data on this disease or its treatment different for men and women? If the differences are notable, it is convenient to explain them publicly. Not only to make them visible, but also to promote citizen knowledge.
- Guarantee that expert and reference voices in research, healthcare and health policy convey the reality of increasingly feminized professions. It is not an easy task, because often the positions of power are still occupied by men. On the other hand, it is common that those who know more about a specific issue are not those with higher positions, but those who have carried out the research or have coordinated the project or initiative that is being explained. In these positions we often find women, and they should be consulted as expert sources.
- Make an effort so that language and the use of images progressively abandon gender stereotypes that relate women to certain social roles. Although the basic principles regarding the legibility of the texts and the comprehension of the information have to be respected, it is recommended to introduce terminology and resources of a more inclusive language – above all, to abandon the exclusive use of the masculine so common in the Spanish language. The images accompanying the information must also have a better correspondence with the diversity of people, the situations and the problems that are explained, avoiding clichés and helping to better understand the information adapted to the real context.
Although it is not an exhaustive study, the report puts on the table these conclusions and basic recommendations to encourage the communication of health issues with more sensitivity regarding gender issues, to respond to real needs in a more diverse and inclusive current context.