“It’s Medically Proven!”: Assessing the Dissemination of Religion and Health Research
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The recent proliferation of research on the connection between religion and health has raised concerns among some scholars about how these studies affect people’s understanding of that connection. However, such concerns assume that religion and health research reaches religious audiences and informs their understanding of the connection between religion and health. We explore the veracity of these assumptions, asking two questions: (1) Is religion and health research disseminating into the American public? (2) Do religious persons incorporate religion and health research into their understanding of the connection between religion and health? We conduct two studies to answer these questions. First, we search three newspapers (The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and three news magazines (Newsweek, Time, and U. S. News and World Report) for articles that mention religion and health research. In the second study, we analyze interview transcripts for respondents’ mentions of religion and health research when discussing the relationship between religion and health. Our results indicate substantial growth over time in media reporting on religion and health research but reveal that only a limited portion of religious persons cite such research in explaining their conceptualizations of the connection between religion and health.
KeywordsContent analysis Health Media Research Religion
The authors would like to thank Joe Mann, Director of the Rural Church Division at The Duke Endowment, Mary Piepenbringin, Director of the Health Care Division at The Duke Endowment, and Gene Cochrane, President of The Duke Endowment for financial support of the Caring Communities Health Ministries Assessment from which these data are drawn. The authors would like to thank Alexis T. Franzese and Whitney Arroyave for their assistance with the Caring Communities Health Ministries Assessment Project and Wendy Cadge, Linda K. George, and Harold Koenig for reviewing the manuscript. Finally, the authors thank the congregations that participated in the study. The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not reflect the views or opinions of The Duke Endowment.
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