Radio Show ‘BodyLove’ Dramatizes Various Health Issues That Affect Blacks
The Los Angeles Times on Friday examined the weekly serialized radio drama "Body Love," which depicts black characters "wrestl[ing] with a slew of health problems while trying to navigate prickly relationships and cope with financial strains." The 15-minute episodes focus on two extended families who "make progress through modest lifestyle changes." The soap opera-style show features characters who "give in to cravings for burgers, ... resist taking insulin, ... quit smoking, then backslide; lose weight, then regain it," the Times reports. After the shows, local hosts take calls from listeners and discuss practical steps for improving their health.
University of Alabama public health professor Connie Kohler created the show, and students and faculty at the university write the episodes. The project launched in 2003 with funding from a three-year, $250,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The first 80 episodes ran between 2003 and 2007 on about six radio stations in Atlanta, Jackson, Miss., and across Alabama. The show also recently launched in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and organizers are negotiating a deal in Tacoma, Wash. Funding also comes from local entities, such as the Alabama Eye Bank, procured through fundraising efforts. Most of the stations that air BodyLove are small, locally owned stations that do not subscribe to listeners' tracking services, but station managers report that the show has a strong audience base.
According to the Times, using "soap opera as a vehicle for social change has been around for decades." China, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan and other nations have used the concept to address issues such as HIV/AIDS, adult literacy and sexual assault. Pauline Seitz, who directs a matching grant program under RWJF, said, "This is a model that's been so successful in other countries, I wonder why we aren't seeing more of it here." She added, "We all learn through stories. We're captivated by them, moved by them, motivated by them."
Kohler and her partners are working on new episodes of BodyLove, as well as a
new three-minute show focusing on obesity that will air on radio stations in urban areas with large black populations, such as Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C. The project will be funded in part by NIH. Two other projects, including one in Spanish, will air in Iowa and focus on teen pregnancy (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 4/11).