We have come across so many different types of communication strategies in our science communication course. This article touches on one strategy that I’m sure we all can relate to quite easily – entertainment-education.
Entertainment-education (E-E) is a communication strategy that has been popular among international health promotion program planners since the 1950s.
They have been integrated into dramatic serial TV programs, and other forms of entertainment. This stretches out in countries as diverse as Mexico, Turkey, India, South Africa, and Columbia. They target health issues such as HIV/AIDS prevention, reproductive health, family planning, domestic violence, and the list goes on.
E-E has the potential to cost-effectively reach millions of people with health messages. There are a couple of reasons why I think and agree that it really is so effective:
- Drama serials attract large audiences, as people are able to relate to things in the shows – e.g. characters, emotions, scenarios, gender, race etc. Well, “life” basically.
- Once they get drawn or hooked to a drama serial, the program may subtly touch on different health issues every other episode while maintaining an intriguing storyline, which will keep viewers in suspense and coming back for more.
- Viewers chat and discuss about it with their friends or fellow viewers, and may even introduce the show to others.
- A lot of people are visual learners and watching shows can be considered observational learning. This can lead to attainment of new knowledge, impacts on attitudes and behaviours.
- Drama serials visually portray future consequences of a certain topic. In other words, it “fast-forwards” time to show the impacts of present-day decisions.
If one drama serial can be so powerful, what do you think the impact would be if two drama serials exercised a coordinated campaign in the same period?
(Photo credits to eztv.it and topnews.in)
Everybody would have heard of the two very famous and popular medical dramas namely, Grey’s Anatomy (cheer if you love this!) and ER (cheer if you think this show is old!). In 2005, both dramas focused on the breast cancer risk that confronts women who test positive for the gene mutation (BRCA1). The two stories featured female patients who were struggling with the difficult decision of choosing to undergo preventive surgery (prophylactic mastectomy) to reduce her risk of developing cancer, since they were already tested positive for the BRCA1 test. (Scientific research shows that preventive surgery does reduce the risk by about 90%.)
The two dramas had similar storylines and similar health messages, however, after a study was done to evaluate the impact of both, it showed that the storylines had influenced different variables (knowledge, attitudes, behavioural intentions and behavioural change).
As much as I think that drama serials and shows are really effective in communicating science and creating awareness of health issues, I also feel that it can be very dangerous if viewers were to make life decisions based on them.
People tend to put themselves in the actors/actresses shoes and follow the decisions they make. But in doing that, they will also be expecting the ideal scenario, which they are now familiar with, to also happen in real life. (We know that it probably won’t happen that way. I mean, how can romance, relationships, family support, friendship, medical outcomes all turn out exactly 100% like in a drama?)
With that said, is entertainment-education really more effective than dangerous? What do you think?
Heather et al. (2008) Entertainment-Education in a Media-Saturated Environment: Examining the Impact of Single and Multiple Exposures to Breast Cancer Storylines on Two Popular Medical Dramas. Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, 13(8): 808-823.