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Medicineworld.org: ER episode impacts viewers' health knowledge and behavior

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ER episode impacts viewers' health knowledge and behavior




A new study by scientists at the University of Southern California suggests that some TV may be good for you.

Scientists observed that a storyline on the primetime NBC network drama ER that dealt with teen obesity, high blood pressure and healthy eating habits had a positive impact on the attitudes and behaviors of viewers, especially among men.

The study, reported in the Sept. 14 Journal of Health Communication and now available online, offered scientists a rare opportunity to evaluate the impact of health messages in entertainment, says Thomas W. Valente, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine and member of the Institute for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention Research (IPR) at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.



ER episode impacts viewers' health knowledge and behavior

This study demonstrates the importance of interventions and programs targeted at a population level, says Valente. We have so a number of public heath issues to deal with, we cant restrict ourselves to any one strategy. We have to do everything and anything we can to help people improve their health.

The storyline depicted an African-American teen who is diagnosed with high blood pressure during a visit to the emergency room and is advised to eat more fruits and vegetables and to get more exercise. The story aired over three episodes from April 29 to May 13, 2004.

The impact of the episodes was reviewed using three separate datasets, one of which provided data on a sample of 807 primetime viewers before and after the episodes aired. An independent firm collected surveys from viewers, measuring whether their self-reported behavior and their nutrition attitudes, knowledge and practices were impacted by the storyline.

Results showed that ER viewers were 65 percent more likely to report a positive change in their behavior after watching the episodes. The results also suggested that the storyline had modest impacts on knowledge, attitudes and practices, Valente notes. Those who watched ER also had a five percent higher rate of knowledge about nutrition than those who did not. Scientists accounted for many factors, including age, sex, ethnicity, income and education.

Interestingly, the effects were stronger for men than they were for women. Scientists theorize this may be because men started with a lower baseline knowledge of the information shown in the episodes, Valente says.

While the overall impact may be relatively small, the study highlights the potential of entertainment television as a medium for health communication, Valente says. It can be especially helpful since people who are heavy TV watchers are more likely to be at risk for obesity, he notes.

People get their information from entertainment, Valente says. Its not a magic bullet. Its a small piece of the puzzle, but wed be silly to ignore its potential.

Public health experts should also be involved in shaping the health messages that go out to viewers, Valente says. For the ER storyline, writers from the show contacted the Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S) project at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center to request information on the prevalence of high blood pressure and heart disease among overweight teens.

The findings of the study highlight why such programs are necessary to public health efforts, Valente says.

We should do everything we can to help ensure the accuracy of health messages in the media, he says.


Posted by: Janet    Source




Did you know?
A new study by scientists at the University of Southern California suggests that some TV may be good for you. Scientists observed that a storyline on the primetime NBC network drama ER that dealt with teen obesity, high blood pressure and healthy eating habits had a positive impact on the attitudes and behaviors of viewers, especially among men.

Medicineworld.org: ER episode impacts viewers' health knowledge and behavior

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