'ER' episodes may influence healthy habits

Sept. 19, 2007 at 11:22 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Southern California suggest that some TV viewing may influence healthy behaviors.

Thomas W. Valente of the Keck School of Medicine found that a storyline on NBC-TV drama "ER" that dealt with teen obesity, hypertension and healthy eating habits had a positive impact on the attitudes and behaviors of viewers -- particularly among men.

Valente analyzed the impact of the three episodes -- with a storyline that depicted an African-American teen diagnosed with hypertension during an emergency room visit, who is advised to eat more fruits and vegetables and get more exercise.

An independent firm collected surveys from viewers, measuring whether their self-reported behavior and their nutrition attitudes, knowledge and practices were affected by the storyline.

The study, published in the Journal of Health Communication, found "ER" viewers were 65 percent more likely to report a positive change in their behavior after watching the episodes.

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