Health Communication about Hospice Care in Chinese Media : Digital Topic Modeling Study

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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  • Qian Liu
  • Zequan Zheng
  • Jingsen Chen
  • Winghei Tsang
  • Shan Jin
  • Yimin Zhang
  • Babatunde Akinwunmi
  • Casper JP Zhang


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29375
Journal / PublicationJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Issue number10
Online published21 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021



Background: Hospice care, a type of end-of-life care provided for dying patients and their families, has been rooted in China since the 1980s. It can improve receivers quality of life as well as ease their economic burden. The Chinese mass media have continued to actively dispel misconceptions surrounding hospice care and deliver the latest information to citizens. Objective: This study aims to retrieve and analyze news reports on hospice care in order to gain insight into whether any differences existed in heath information delivered over time and to evaluate the role of mass media in health communication in recent years. Methods: We searched the Huike (WiseSearch) news database for relevant news reports from Chinese mass media released between 2014 and 2019. We defined two time periods for this study: (1) January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2016, and (2) January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2019. The data cleaning process was completed using Python. We determined appropriate topic numbers for these two periods based on the coherence score and applied latent Dirichlet allocation topic modeling. Keywords for each topic and corresponding topics names were then generated. The topics were plotted into different circles, and their distances on the 2D plane was represented by multidimensional scaling. Results: After removing duplicated and irrelevant news articles, we obtained a total of 2227 articles. We chose 8 as the suitable topic number for both study periods and generated topic names and associated keywords. The top 3 most reported topics in the first period were patient treatment, hospice care stories, and development of health care services and health insurance, accounting for 18.68% (178/953), 16.58% (158/953), and 14.17% (135/953) of the collected reports, respectively. The top 3 most reported topics in the second period were hospice care stories, patient treatment, and development of health care services, accounting for 15.62% (199/953), 15.38% (15.38/953), and 14.27% (182/953), respectively. Conclusions: Topic modeling of news reports gives us a better understanding of the patterns of health communication about hospice care by mass media. Chinese mass media frequently reported on hospice care in April of every year on account of a traditional Chinese festival. Moreover, an increase in coverage was observed in the second period. The two periods shared 6 similar topics, of which patient treatment outstrips hospice care stories was the most reported topic in the second period, implying the humanistic spirit behind the reports. Based on the findings of this study, we suggest stakeholders cooperate with the mass media when planning to update policies.

Research Area(s)

  • China, communication, end-of-life, health communication, health information, hospice, hospice care, mass media, media, misconception, model, news, topic modeling

Citation Format(s)

Health Communication about Hospice Care in Chinese Media: Digital Topic Modeling Study. / Liu, Qian; Zheng, Zequan; Chen, Jingsen et al.
In: JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Vol. 7, No. 10, e29375, 10.2021.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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