A network analysis on the population and family planning issues in the Philippines

With the reproductive health bill currently under consideration in Congress, issues regarding population and family planning has recently received heightened media coverage. In a recent paper entitled “News framing of population and family planning issues via syntactic network analysis” appearing in the International Journal of Modern Physics C, Legara and colleagues, all researchers from the University of the Philippines, examined the pattern of media coverage on the population issue in the Philippines.

The researchers analyzed the contents of 146 articles published in Manila Bulletin, a leading newspaper in the country using network analysis. This is done by extracting concepts from the news articles’ texts. The extracted concepts were formed into network nodes and the strength of ties between concepts was used to represent network edges.The resulting network topology suggested that most of the concepts stemmed from few central ideas such as population, government, health, etc. By clustering these ideas further into frames, three of such frames were identified in the news coverage, namely 1) development frame, 2) maternal health frame, and 3) framing by the Catholic church.

The development frame associates the population issues with various national concerns. In this case, the term “population” co-occurs with terms like “family planning” and “reproductive health”, etc. Words in this cluster identified social service provision concerns from the point of view of the government. On the other hand, the maternal health frame highlights the importance of maternal health in considering the population issue. Terms that are closely associated with this frame include “medical”, “pill” and “drug.” Other co-occurring terms include “death”, “infant”, and “abortion”, which can be related to maternal health. Finally, terms that cluster together in the catholic church frame includes “anti-abortion”, “sexual”, and “catholic church”, among others. Interestingly, the words “sex” and “sexual” co-occur more with church characterization, indicating the church focus on sex and sexuality when confronted with population issues.

The researchers concluded that  “the inability to fruitfully discuss points of contention to reach agreement about suitable population policies in the Philippines is due to the mismatched frames within which it is discussed.” The disconnect in which these frames appeared in the media coverage is indicative of how different each group viewed population and family planning issues. As such, discussion concerning these issues will never reach an agreement unless each group will consider the others frame of reference and face the issues head on.

You can read the details of the study in “News framing of population and family planning issues via syntactic network analysis” by Erika Legara, Christopher Monterola, Clarissa David, and Jenna Mae Atun, International Journal of Modern Physics C 21 (2010) 51-65.