Regina Davis MossThis guest post by APHA’s Associate Executive Director Regina Davis Moss previews an exciting session at APHA 2018 exploring the results of Hollywood, Health & Society’s work on health narratives in popular entertainment.

The television coverage of “hot-button” public health issues raised during Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s recent Supreme Court confirmation process was a big moment for the University of Southern California’s Hollywood, Health & Society. That’s because this USC-affiliated program provides entertainment professionals accurate and timely information for storylines on health, safety and national security.

Hollywood is not a cure-all for bridging our nation’s deep political divide. However, the Hollywood, Health & Society research that will be presented at this year’s APHA Annual Meeting and Expo suggests nuanced portrayals of health and social issues in mainstream forms of entertainment can break down ideological barriers in a way that news stories may not.

In the APHA 2018 session A Good Story: How Entertainment Narratives Can Promote Public Health and Inspire Change, Dr. Erica Rosenthal, Senior Research Associate, will present new findings from a Hollywood, Health & Society study on an abortion storyline on popular television show American Crime and a nuclear safety storyline on Madam Secretary. This study examined how the effects of these entertainment narratives differ depending on the viewer’s political ideology and party affiliation. Rosenthal will also discuss findings from a study of USA Network’s Royal Pains series that explored the influence of transgender storylines on viewer’s attitudes toward transgender people and policies.

Hollywood, Health & Society, based in USC’s Norman Lear Center, has operated since 2001 and is a free resource for writers, producers, and others in search of credible information. Program activities have helped incorporate public health information into more than 100 television series on 35 networks.

Studies of public health issues on television and consultations with entertainment media professionals are just two aspects of the Hollywood, Health & Society’s broad effort to inform, educate, and motivate audiences to make safer and healthier choices. Celebrating writers and producers who both entertain and provide viewers with accurate information is another important strategy. Earlier this month, Hollywood, Health & Society held the 2018 Sentinel Awards, which recognize members of the entertainment industry that make positive contributions to addressing health and social issues. Now in its 19th year, Chicago Med, Grey’s Anatomy, and 13 Reasons Why were among the twelve shows that were honored.

It is estimated that over 100 million Americans learn something new about health and over 50 million are motivated to take action from watching television. Attend APHA 2018 to learn more about methods for measuring the impact of entertainment narratives on health and partnering with health experts, scriptwriters and producers to increase the quality and accuracy of health content in popular media.

Register now for APHA’s 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo. APHA’s Annual Meeting is the largest annual gathering of public health professionals. Thousands of people attend, and thousands of new scientific papers are presented each year on every public health topic. APHA 2018’s theme, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now” puts health equity at the center of our field’s attention. Learn more and register to attend.