TELEVISION: Serves as a Medical Educator for Many
Many Americans receive most of their basic medical information from television programs, according to U.S. News & World Report. A CDC study found that about half of the 38 million people watching soap operas at least twice a week had learned "something about disease and its prevention." Further, 7% visited their doctors after seeing some ailment discussed on a show. In addition, knowledge about options to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse rose from 50% to 67% after an episode discussing emergency contraception was aired on NBC's hospital series "ER," according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Those findings have prompted health care organizations and professionals "to get the attention of writers, producers and assorted Hollywood moguls, trying to convince them that, in the area of medicine, the truth is as compelling as fiction." The Clinton administration has also taken an interest in "the potency of the entertainment media as a health promoter." HHS Secretary Donna Shalala has offered television writers access to her office's resources to encourage medical accuracy in storylines. She said, "Entertainment television reaches the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. In recent years, I have challenged television talk-show hosts, writers and producers -- as professionals, parents and citizens -- to use this incredible power to help Americans get accurate public health information" (Brink, May 1 issue).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.