BACKGROUND. In the safety community, it is widely thought that a culture of safety is required to achieve high levels of safety. However, the press tends to report accidents, which are negative by their nature. Pediatric cases are often especially tragic. Relatively few data have been available on the role that the media play in forming opinions about patient safety and the subsequent impact on the culture of safety.

METHODS. To address these issues, we analyzed newspaper coverage of pediatric medication errors and adverse drug events. We searched Lexis Nexis for newspaper articles on pediatric medication safety from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland, during a 10-year period (1994–2004), by using specific keywords. Main outcome measures were the number of articles (adjusted for population), the type of events covered, and article slant. We also examined qualitatively the overall themes and the extent to which these articles portrayed a culture of safety to the public.

RESULTS. Throughout the world, there was a steady increase in articles on pediatric medication safety, peaking in 2003, with the highest per-capita rate in Canada. Approximately 65% of articles were about patient incidents, 20% mentioned policy, and 25% discussed research. Of the reported events judged to be negative for patient safety, 75% were covered in a neutral manner and 19% were covered in an unduly negative manner.

CONCLUSIONS. Media coverage of pediatric medication safety has increased in the past 10 years. Reporting of patient safety failures was generally fair, and reports were generally framed in light of a culture of safety.

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