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ER episode impacts viewers' health knowledge and behavior
Date:9/17/2007

hose who watched ER also had a five percent higher rate of knowledge about nutrition than those who did not. Researchers accounted for a number of factors, including age, sex, ethnicity, income and education.

Interestingly, the effects were stronger for men than they were for women. Researchers 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 particularly 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 hypertension 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.


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Contact: Meghan Lewit
lewit@usc.edu
323-442-2830
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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