Entertainment Education in the Media

Entertainment Education is a communication and health marketing strategy that aims to raise awareness and educate the public in order to change health behavior. It is based on various theories of behavior change and human behavior, and has been utilized for over 30 years.  Many formats including film, television, social media, and theater are used to connect with an audience’s emotions and inform viewers, with the hope that this will subsequently change behavior, attitudes, and social norms.

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An example of this approach was used on the popular Lifetime TV drama Army Wives.  This show explores the lives and families of women in the Army.  In 2010, the character of Joan (played by Wendy Davis) was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).  This subject was carried out in a multi-episode storyline.  TBI is often referred to as “the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars”.  It occurs when a sudden head injury or trauma disrupts the brains functioning.  Damage by explosive devices, vehicle or motorcycle accidents, and falls are common causes of TBI.

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When writing these particular episodes, two scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acted as key informants in the process of storyline development.  The show first contacted Hollywood, Health & Society, a program that provides accurate health and medical information to entertainment industry professionals.  From here CDC specialists were connected to television scriptwriters at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control where they worked together to include important health messages within the storyline.

Featuring TBI on Army Wives raised awareness about various signs and symptoms associated with the injury.  As early diagnosis has the potential to save the lives of those affected, this entertainment education strategy worked with a goal of educating viewers on an issue they may not be familiar with.

By engaging audiences in dramatic stories, such as that of Joan, entertainment education coveys significant social and health messages to large audiences.  This process helps facilitate motivation amongst viewers to change their attitude and behaviors on various issues.  By attaching education to entertainment, audiences may be more receptive to the material and the educational content may reach those that it would not otherwise be able to.

References/Resources

http://www.entertainmenteducation.org/

http://www.knowledgebank.irri.org/ipm/32-entertainment-education.html

http://blogs.cdc.gov/healthoutloud/2010/12/21/129/

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tbi/tbi.htm

– Hannah T

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