Tuberculosis and foreign-born populations in the United States: A mixed methods pilot study of media reporting and political identification

Document Type


Publication Date



MaineHealth Institute for Research

Journal Title

PloS one

MeSH Headings

Emigrants and Immigrants; Epidemiological Monitoring; Humans; Mass Media; Pilot Projects; Politics; Prejudice; Public Opinion; Tuberculosis (epidemiology); United States (epidemiology)


BACKGROUND: Media reporting on communicable diseases has been demonstrated to affect the perception of the public. Communicable disease reporting related to foreign-born persons has not yet been evaluated. OBJECTIVE: Examine how political leaning in the media affects reporting on tuberculosis (TB) in foreign-born persons. METHODS: HealthMap, a digital surveillance platform that aggregates news sources on global infectious diseases, was used. Data was queried for media reports from the U.S. between 2011-2019, containing the term "TB" or "tuberculosis" and "foreign born", "refugee (s)," or "im (migrants)." Reports were reviewed to exclude duplicates and non-human cases. Each media source was rated using two independent media bias indicators to assess political leaning. Forty-six non-tuberculosis reports were randomly sampled and evaluated as a control. Two independent reviewers performed sentiment analysis on each report. RESULTS: Of 891 TB-associated reports in the US, 46 referenced foreign-born individuals, and were included in this analysis. 60.9% (28) of reports were published in right-leaning news media and 6.5% (3) of reports in left-leaning media, while 39.1% (18) of the control group reports were published in left- leaning media and 10.9% (5) in right-leaning media (p < .001). 43% (20) of all study reports were posted in 2016. Sentiment analysis revealed that right-leaning reports often portrayed foreign-born persons negatively. CONCLUSION: Preliminary data from this pilot suggest that political leaning may affect reporting on TB in US foreign-born populations. Right-leaning news organizations produced the most reports on TB, and the majority of these reports portrayed foreign-born persons negatively. In addition, the control group comprised of non-TB, non-foreign born reports on communicable diseases featured a higher percentage of left-leaning news outlets, suggesting that reporting on TB in foreign-born individuals may be of greater interest to right-leaning outlets. Further investigation both in the U.S. and globally is needed.

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