Survey Shows ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Viewers Gained HIV Knowledge
Many viewers of an episode of ABC's prime-time medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" that included a story about mother-to-child HIV transmission gained awareness of the issue, according to a survey released on Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, USA Today reports.
For the study, the Foundation worked with writers of the show to embed in the episode the story of an HIV-positive pregnant woman. According to USA Today, the woman is "distraught" before being told by her physician that with proper treatment, her child has a 98% chance of being born HIV-negative. The Foundation conducted three national random surveys of regular viewers of the show one week before, one week after and six weeks after the episode. The surveys combined had 1,505 respondents.
Victoria Rideout, vice president and director of the Foundation's program for the Study of Media and Health, said the goal of the survey was to measure the "impact of the message about mother-to-child HIV transmission" (Marcus, USA Today, 9/17). One week before the show, 15% of the viewers surveyed said that they were aware of the mother-to-child HIV transmission risk. One week after the show, 61% of viewers of the episode were aware of the risk. Six weeks after the show, 45% of viewers remembered the information correctly (Childs, ABC News, 9/17). According to the survey, the increase from 15% to 61% awareness of the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission translates to more than eight million people learning correct information on the issue from watching the episode. The survey also found that the percentage of viewers who said it was "irresponsible for a woman who knows she is HIV-positive to have a baby" dropped from 61% to 34% after the episode aired, and then increased to 47% six weeks after the show (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 9/16). Rideout said she was "astounded" by the number of viewers who "picked up on factual health info about HIV embedded in the show, and that they remembered it weeks later."
The Foundation and the University of Southern California's Annenberg Norman Lear Center also released a second study of top-10 prime time television shows, finding that six out of 10 episodes from 2004 to 2006 included at least one health-related storyline. "People are very hungry for information about health," Linda Rosenstock, dean of the University of California-Los Angeles School of Public Health, said, adding that entertainment media do "societal good" by putting accurate health information into shows. Jay Bernhardt of CDC said that embedding information accurately into TV content could "help change behaviors about health" (USA Today, 9/17).
The studies, and a Kaisernetwork.org webcast of a briefing discussing them, are available online.