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Blog Post of the Month: Entertainment Media Can Help Change Behaviors and Stop the Ebola Outbreak

Margaret Miller's picture

Each month, People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.

In August 2014, the most popular blog post was "Entertainment Media Can Help Change Behaviors and Stop the Ebola Outbreak"

In this post, Senior Economist Margaret Miller and Economic Adviser Olga Jonas, in collaobration with the UNICEF Communication for Development Team (C4D), discuss the ways in which entertainment media can be used to raise awareness among publics facing a crisis and to support interventions by encouraging the adoption of safe behaviors. 

Using entertainment media in this way to inform, educate and support behavior change is also known as entertainment education (EE). "Entertainment education is effective," states Miller and Jonas "because narratives or stories are emotionally powerful – they help us to organize information and to create the “mental models” that we use to make sense of the world and can help to explain why we behave in particular ways."

Read the blog post to learn more!
 

Entertainment Media Can Help Change Behaviors and Stop the Ebola Outbreak

Margaret Miller's picture

In the wake of the current Ebola crisis, the 2011 movie Contagion (See the trailer here) directed by Steven Soderbergh has repeatedly been cited as one of the best examples of a movie taking on the subject of pandemic disease and managing to educate while providing gripping entertainment. This is no coincidence. Contagion was produced with both A-list stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and others) and support from leading public health experts such as Dr. Ian Lipkin who is the inspiration for one of the scientists portrayed in the film, and award-winning writer Laurie Garrett, author of several books including The Coming Plague. Participant Media, founded by Jeff Skoll to inspire social change through entertainment, was a producer, with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing input as well.

The tagline from the film is “No One is Immune…to Fear.” While one of the early scenes is of a woman dying of a flu-like illness (played by Paltrow) the movie elicits fear not from gruesome symptoms but instead from plot lines and messages that focus on how human responses to these types of public health crises make matters worse. It also showcases the valuable work done by epidemiologists and other public health workers who are the heroes of this film. Contagion communicates these and other lessons effectively using the power of story, a subject recently discussed on this blog.