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How is the media environment shaping our perceptions of health?: An analysis of health content in primetime programming

Sheila T. Murphy, PhD, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, 3502 Watt Way, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281, 310-822-1722, smurphy@usc.edu, Michael J. Cody, PhD, School of Communication, University of Southern California, 3502 Watt Way, 101 C Annenberg Building, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281, Holley Wilkin, PhD candidate, Anneberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, 3502 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281, Grace Huang, MPH, Hollywood, Health & Society, USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, 8383 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 650, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, and Vicki Beck, MS, Hollywood, Health & Society Program, USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, 8383 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 650, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

At the height of its popularity, one out of every three television sets in the United States was tuned to ER on Thursday nights. Because of the potential to reach millions through entertainment TV shows, the CDC and other organizations work with television writers to access segments of the population that have proved difficult to reach through campaigns that rely on PSAs, clinic brochures or posters (Beck, 2004; Salmon, 2001). Moreover, the heaviest consumers of television low SES African American and Hispanic women are also at disproportionate risk for a host of chronic diseases (NCI, 2002). Thus, not only are popular television programs more likely to reach larger audiences, they are more likely to reach those at risk. But to what health-related messages are viewers exposed in primetime programming? The purpose of this presentation is to report the results of an ongoing content analysis of the most popular programs among African American, Hispanic and general adult and teen audiences for the spring television seasons of 2003 and 2004. More specifically, we will reveal how often risk versus preventive behaviors such as smoking, drug use, violence, eating a healthy diet, exercise, and others are modeled and the overall educational content that is portrayed (Bandura, 2004) for each of these groups of viewers. Furthermore, this presentation will report on whether or not these actions are shown as receiving health benefits or consequences (i.e. is a relatively thin character constantly shown consuming high calorie food, or is smoking shown with negative health consequences?).

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Media, Minority Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

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The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA