Posts tagged ‘television’
Marcus Welby, MD is an anachronism. The family doctor who pays house calls no longer exists except for some anachronists or doctors working in a few specific situations. The show, which ran from 1969-1976, predates the web. Hence Marcus Welby and his assistant probably got most of their medical updates from their monthly JAMA.
The amount of medical knowledge that exists and the amount that medical professionals need to know is constantly growing. Medical literature doubles every 19 years and, for AIDs, every 22 months, according to Tonya Hongsermeier, MD.
How can anyone possibly stay current? This is especially important because of the criticality of the information, not just the amount. As Tonya points out, doctors can be aided by tools that assist them, for example, alerting them to possible negative interactions between medications and other medical risks. Initiatives to codify knowledge and increase patient safety are taking place at Partners Healthcare.
Patients, who had limited access to medical knowledge in Marcus Welby’s days, now have a wealth of information available online – in fact, can access most of what physicians read. However, patients generally lack the basic knowledge and frameworks to understand and make sense of this abundance of readily accessible knowledge and, even more importantly, how to apply it. This is primarily due to lack of medical training and poor health literacy.
This democratization of medical knowledge, according to Larry Prusak, is a double-edged sword. Doctors struggle to stay on top of advances and, at the same time, patients increasingly try to acquire medical knowledge about their own or their loved one’s health. The disconnect between patients and doctors can be attributed in part to this democratization, which has changed the relationships between patients and their providers. The notion of empowered patients is one few could argue with; however an important component of expertise is knowing what you don’t know, knowing what to ignore, and knowing what is important. “There’s so much information (as well as misinformation) in medicine — and, yes, a lot of it can be Googled — that one major responsibility of an expert is to know what to ignore,” but many patients, understandably, lack that expertise as well as the necessary detachment. In fact, even doctors don’t treat themselves.
Not to digress, but I wrote about health and media recently and was interested that Marcus Welby, MD had an episode that focused on the diagnoses of breast cancer in two women, aired when “the wives of two public political figures” had been diagnosed with breast cancer. “The most motivational moment of this episode is James Brolin’s emerging from character to talk about diagnostic and early-detection tools for breast cancer. Such is the hallmark of television that [it] is not only entertaining but informative.” (This also goes to show the amazing information you can find on the internet when you aren’t even looking for it.)
Why sit at home when you can be out dancing? Not only is it fun and good exercise, it can reduce your risk of dementia according to a research study conducted by Dr. Joe Verghese. Dr. Verghese theorizes the underlying reason is that “Dance is a complex activity. You have to follow the music, remember the steps and improvise.” Dance is also a social activity, typically done with a partner.
Dancing with the Stars and the knock-off shows are increasing interest in dance, in much the same way Nick/Tuck increased interest in cosmetic surgery. Of course, just like staring in the mirror at your wrinkles doesn’t mean you will have surgery, watching dancing doesn’t mean you will get off the sofa.
Knowing the potential health benefits may prove to be an incentive. Since “roughly 18%, of the USA’s 79 million baby boomers can expect to develop Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia in their lifetime“, according to a newly released report 2008 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.
If I was a screenwriter and needed an au courant health problem to feature, I know where to turn. The Winter 2008 issue of Real to Reel provides a synopsis from media sources and leading health agencies, including how malaria-infected mosquitoes are being used to develop a new vaccine and how a door-to-door salesman donated a kidney to someone he tried to sell a vacuum cleaner to. It’s easy to imagine the taken-from-real-life dramas that could result and to furthermore see the opportunities to increase health literacy and awareness.
Hollywood, Health & Society (HHS), part of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, helps entertainment writers with medical and health storylines. Their Sentinel for Health Awards “recognize exemplary TV storylines that best inform, educate and motivate viewers to make choices for healthier and safer lives. Past recognition has been given for storylines about breast cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, car crashes, organ donation, and safe sex.” The award was started by the CDC for soap operas and has been expanded to include “daytime drama, primetime drama, primetime minor storyline, primetime comedy and telenovela.”
While I am focused primarily on the use of health web sites and online health communities, I realize the strong influence of print, TV, plays, and movies. I wrote earlier this month about Ellen Goodman’s column about conflicting health messages and the difficulty of knowing what to do – or which study to believe – to stay healthy. The influence of TV, plays, and movies is more powerful since the message is more visual and designed to engage the viewer’s emotions (my heart was pounding the last time I watched Nip/Tuck). According to O Magazine, the CDC reports that 88% of Americans learn about health issues from TV and I imagine that the number is high for movies, plays, novels, and other creative media: virtually all include someone who is ill, dying, or dies during the course of the story.
Where is the line between accuracy and creative license? The CDC and other agencies are at the accuracy end, but efforts like HHS certainly increase the accuracy of the abundant creative outlets. On the one hand, Forbes reports that “a new study by researchers at the University of Southern California, published this month in the Journal of Health Communication,… shows viewers of an ER storyline about teen obesity, hypertension and healthy eating habits were 65% more likely to report a positive change in their behavior after watching.” And on the other hand, WebMD reports that the number of people having cosmetic surgery is increasing and that many people have inaccurate perceptions of the recovery process and the impact of the surgery on their lives due in part to television makeover shows like The Swan and Extreme Makeover.
Health web sites and online health communities share many of these problems in terms of their accuracy and potential impact, the primary difference being that they are not designed for entertainment.