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Disseminating disease prevention messages through primetime TV: Evaluation of chronic disease and urban health messages in a network TV storyline

Thomas W. Valente, PhD1, Vicki Beck, MS2, Jennie Greene, MS2, Grace Huang, MPH2, and Joe Sachs, MD2. (1) Keck School of Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, 1000 South Fremont, Unit 8, Room 5133, Alhambra, CA 91803, 626-457-6678, tvalente@usc.edu, (2) Hollywood, Health & Society Program, USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, 8383 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 650, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Entertainment TV shows can be a powerful means of disseminating information about the prevention, screening and treatment of chronic diseases including asthma, cancer, diabetes and heart disease (Sharf & Freimuth, 1993; Wiard, 2001). Such conditions are particularly prevalent in urban communities where environmental factors such as air pollution and poverty are widespread. When television shows have large viewerships, exposure to messages can be substantial, with secondary exposure reinforced by discussion among viewers and non-viewers (Singhal & Rogers, 2002). In the mid-1980s, the Harvard School of Public Health launched an effort to introduce the concept of the designated driver into prime time entertainment programming (Winsten & DeJong, 1990). Reinforced by a national campaign by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, these efforts contributed to an increased use of designated drivers, and by 1993, 64% of adults reported assigning a designated driver at events where alcohol was consumed (Gallup, 1994).

This presentation will describe the development of a major TV storyline on chronic disease in an urban setting and report on findings from a national survey revealing the impact of prevention messages on diverse audiences. We will show clips from the show and discuss the role of public health experts consulting with writers as part of Hollywood, Health & Society, a CDC- and NCI-funded program at the USC Annenberg Schools Norman Lear Center that supports public health campaigns. We will summarize preliminary data from the survey including audience characteristics, exposure to messages, and the impact of messages on viewers’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Prevention, Health Communications

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.

What's in/on the Air: A Multi-method Evaluation of TV's Effect on Environmental Health

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