Hollywood, Social Media, and Public Health

The United States is a country that loves the go to the movies. The stories that come out of Hollywood have the power to make us laugh, cry, and try to change our communities for the better. The stories that come out of the tragedies and miracles of public health is a perfect example of Hollywood’s power to influence its audience.

In a recent Forbes article, Bruce Y. Lee urges that “public health has vast pools of untapped story lines that could refuel Hollywood and help millions of people.”

hollywoodEvery day, a different health issue makes the news. This ranges worldwide from the latest research about people’s diets and the ongoing global obesity epidemic, to widespread infectious endemics such as Ebola, malaria, and antibiotic resistant bacteria. In all of these cases, amazing feats of courage occur on both large and small scales.

Whether it’s the dedicated doctors fighting to keep a sick person alive in dangerous conditions, researchers in laboratories working around the clock to find a cure, or families coming together in times of grief, public health crises affect everyone. The stories that come out of this strife has the power to educate us about the difficulties in public health.

So, what is the relationship between pop culture, Hollywood, and public health?

Everyone is a storyteller
With social media, ordinary people no longer need expensive production teams to tell engaging stories. Using smartphones, everyone is a director. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram makes it possible to post photos, videos, and blogs, that challenge us to be “part of the solution in making healthcare available to everyone on this planet.”

Television and movies have the potential to do bad
Movies telling the stories of those suffering under poor health conditions have the tendency to trivialize the victims’ narrative. Television, movies, and social media can provide misinformation. Hastily produced scripts can reinforce incorrect stereotypes, and misdirect necessary resources. This only does more to fuel unhealthy conflict in desperate situations.

Television and movies also have the potential to do good
Bruce Y. Lee argues that TV and movies can, “bring light to important information and issues, inspire and bring together people, and galvanize change.” For example, Philadelphia (1993) brought attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as did Blood Diamond (2006) in addressing the violence in the Sierra Leone Civil War. The availability of knowledge concerning health problems as our informations deepens should be utilized not only by Hollywood, but by everyone willing to tell their own stories.

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