BACKGROUND: One central aspect of health literacy is knowledge of patients' rights. Being an important source of information about health and health care, the media may influence health literacy and act as a policy implementer.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether regional news media coverage in Sweden is linked to (i) the public's awareness and knowledge of a patient's rights policy, the waiting-time guarantee and (ii) the public's attitudes to how the guarantee's time limits are met, that is, implementation success.
DESIGN AND DATA: Three types of data are used. First, a national telephone survey of the public's awareness, knowledge and attitudes; second, media coverage information from digital media monitoring; and third, official waiting-time statistics. Bivariate and multivariate regression analyses are performed with the 21 Swedish county councils/regions as a base.
RESULTS: In the county councils/regions, non-awareness ranged from 1 to 15% and knowledge from 47 to 67%. There are relatively large differences between population groups. The amount of regional media coverage shows no significant correlation to the level of awareness and knowledge. There is, however, a significant correlation to both positive and negative attitudes; the latter remains after controlling for actual waiting times.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: At the national level, the media function as a policy implementer, being the primary source of information. At the regional level, the media are part of the political communication, reporting more extensively in county councils/regions where the population holds negative views towards the achievement in implementing the guarantee. We conclude that Swedish authorities should develop its communication strategies to bridge health literacy inequalities.
2015. Vol. 18, no 6, 2731-2741 p.