Risk and Regulation: CAM products, practitioners and the state - perspectives on 'risk' and the 'protection of the public' in the Australian media
This chapter has arisen from my research into mainstream newspaper reports on herbal medicine in Australia. The objectives were to determine the dominant topics and frames that occurred in media reports about herbal medicine over a five-year period, and to measure the prevalence of risk references in newspaper reports during this timeframe. Sociological investigations into media representations of herbal medicine (and CAM, more broadly) are not common. My research attempts to address a gap in the research, using an interdisciplinary approach that draws from sociological theories of health, medicine and CAM, as well as media and risk. The research systematically measures the frequency of various themes and framings, using content analysis. Consistent and vigilant attention to and commentary about CAM news frames can contribute to supporting a critical literacy of health issues as well as what the media tells us about them. Media framing analysis highlights the importance of understanding news culture and news-making in a broader sociopolitical and cultural context that considers the news institutions and journalists themselves (subject to timing and opportunity), as well as those news sources or ‘claims-makers’ who communicate their messages to media and compete to have their ‘reality’ dominate the news frame (Johnson-Cartee, 2005). As a marginalised form of medicine, exploration of these representations reveals the tenuous position of herbal medicine in the context of mainstream Australian healthcare. My findings demonstrate the extent to which the stigmas of benignity and the placebo effect have subsided (although certainly not disappeared), making way for an increasing recognition of plants as substances that are pharmacologically active and potent. These representations occur in both scientific and lay discourses (Lewis, 2011a), although this chapter focuses on the lay discourses found in mainstream news reports. Through the analysis of media representations, it becomes apparent that risk discourses have ultimately helped rather than hindered this more recent positioning of herbal medicine in the Australian healthcare landscape. At the same time, herbal medicines remain peripheral to mainstream Australian healthcare. The omission of any herbal medicine products from the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS),1 and the fact that herbal medicine practitioners and naturopaths are unregulated and excluded from the government’s Medicare scheme, draws a picture of herbal medicine’s marginalised position in the healthcare context.
Routledge Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Perspectives from social science and law