Study of health messages and North Philadelphia Latinos

“Interpretations of Health Messages among North Philadelphia Latinos,” a study of how Philadelphia Puerto Ricans interpret media messages about smoking, was recently concluded. This project was also called “Speaking of Health/Hablando de Salud.” It was funded through a Pennsylvania Department of Health grant to Temple from the money that the tobacco industry is paying states to settle health-related lawsuits. The study was directed by BTMM (now MSP) faculty member Nancy Morris, as Principal Investigator, with BTMM professor Renee Hobbs as Co-Principal Investigator. Over the course of the four-year project, SCT graduate students Dawn Gilpin, Melissa Lenos, Suman Mishra, Pamela Poe, Tom Polcari, and Silvia Valkova also participated in this research.

Interpretations of Health Messages

among North Philadelphia Latinos

This research project examined North Philadelphia Latino residents’ perceptions of media messages about smoking and tobacco.

We examined interpretations by family members aged 9 and up of various media messages about smoking: two magazine ads for cigarettes, a smoking scene from a Hollywood movie, and a television Public Service Announcement discouraging cigarette sales to minors.

This study focused on Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community. The Puerto Rican population on the U.S. Mainland presents particular issues concerning smoking. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (2004), the percentage of Puerto Ricans who smoke is greater than that of any other Latino group.

This project is funded, in part, under a grant with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The Department specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations or conclusions.

Research Design


  • To examine the relationship between smoking behaviors/attitudes and media use of North Philadelphia Puerto Ricans
  • To examine how media messages about smoking are interpreted by North Philadelphia Puerto Ricans

Method: In-home Interviews

  • Interviewing took place between April and August 2005.
  • Individual questionnaires gathered demographic data and quantifiable views about smoking prevalence and behaviors of each family member.
  • Family focus group interviews gathered qualitative data on interpretations of media materials concerning smoking.


Availability sample of 36 Latino families (141 individuals) recruited from the area of Philadelphia with the greatest concentration of Latinos. See map below.

Map of Philadelphia's Latino population

Useful Links

Taller Puertorriqueño
Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations (Concilio)
National Latino Council on Alcohol & Tobacco Prevention

Center for Media Literacy
American Legacy Foundation


Key Preliminary Findings

  • All study participants were aware of the health risks of smoking
  • Participants had exaggerated perceptions of smoking prevalence in the general population
  • Children seem more likely to transmit anti-smoking messages to parents than the reverse
  • Subgroup differences among various Latino populations play a role in smoking perceptions
  • Some participants did not notice or misinterpreted the Surgeon General’s warning label in print cigarette advertisements

Dissemination of Findings

Click on the links below for explanations of the findings.

Dissemination of findings to the local community

Dissemination of findings to the academic community


Project Personnel

  • Principal investigator: Nancy Morris, PhD, Temple University Assoc. Professor of Broadcasting, Telecommunications & Mass Media
  • Co-principal investigator: Renee Hobbs, EdD, Temple University Professor of Broadcasting, Telecommunications & Mass Media
  • Project manager: Sobeida Salomon, PhD
  • Interviewers: Miguel Hernández, Maria Boswell, Sara Serrano, Teresa Sicard Archambeault

Community Advisory Board

The purpose of this group was to help us ensure that the process and results of the study were responsive to community needs and served to benefit the community. The Community Advisory Board was consulted by project researchers throughout the study.

Members of the Community Advisory Board

Louis M. Bonilla, M.A., M.P.A.
Assistant Director, Office of School Health Services, School District Of Philadelphia

Lucy Feria

Regional Superintendent, Central East Region, School District of Philadelphia

Jaime Figueras

Program Director, Concilio (Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations)

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