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ER episode impacts viewers' health knowledge and behavior
Date:9/22/2007

Los Angeles, Sept. 14, 2007 -- A new study by researchers at the University of Southern California suggests that some TV may be good for you.

Researchers found that a storyline on the primetime NBC network drama ER that dealt with teen obesity, hypertension and healthy eating habits had a positive impact on the attitudes and behaviors of viewers, particularly among men.

The study, published in the Sept. 14 Journal of Health Communication and now available online, offered researchers 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.

This study demonstrates the importance of interventions and programs targeted at a population level, says Valente. We have so many 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 hypertension 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 evaluated 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. T
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Contact: Meghan Lewit
lewit@usc.edu
323-442-2830
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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