Consumer research over the years has shown that more than half of regular primetime drama/comedy viewers learned something about a health issue or disease from a TV show. CDC’s entertainment education program and cooperative agreement with the University of Southern California’s Hollywood, Health and Society (HH&S) program creates the opportunity for CDC subject matter experts to work with writers and producers of prime time television shows to help make sure there are accurate health storylines. CDC’s work and partnership began with HH&S ten years ago and as a result HH&S has worked with more than 150 TV series—some of which have as many as 20 million viewers— on 6 broadcast and 30 cable networks.
TV writers and producers have a writing and research process that challenges them to create gripping storylines under tight time pressures. As project officer for the Entertainment Education Cooperative Agreement, I have come to realize and appreciate the effort TV writers make to include correct public health messages in these prime time TV shows. Because of their efforts, millions of people across the US and around the world learn about serious public health challenges and what they can do about them. The Entertainment Education Cooperative Agreement is an exceptionally valuable resource for public health communicators to get our important health messages across in television entertainment shows.
Recently, the Norman Lear Foundation and Hollywood, Health and Society hosted their 12th annual Sentinel for Health Awards and awarded five first‐place winners from a field of 26 entries. The purpose is to recognize examples of TV health storylines that best inform, educate, and inspire viewers to make choices for healthier and safer lives.