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Hollywood: Glamour and Health

Hollywood: Glamour and Health

Picture of Astrid Viciano

Kristin Molini has five reasons to celebrate this year. The 22-year-old is recovering after five organ transplants – liver, stomach, pancreas, and small and large intestines. Only 300 similar interventions have been performed worldwide. The story – reported in the New York Daily News this January – could be the script for a movie. It could be an episode of a TV series, it could, most importantly, get people interested in organ donation, giving them information about the importance of the procedure.

Only recently, physicians and journalists have realized that TV dramas can reach amuch wider audience than most news programs. It was the Hollywood, Health & Society program of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center that recently suggested Kristin's story as a movie plot. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The California Endowment, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institutes for Health and the Health Resources and Services Administration, the researchers at HH&S helps television writers, producers and others find credible information on a wide range of public health topics.

For me as a reporter, this program lies at the intersection of two highly interesting fields of research. On the one hand, I will have the opportunity to look at the way health information is woven into a script, how actors are trained, and how experts make sure that the health information is correct. On the other hand the health information used will certainly reflect the predominating health problems in California or the entire United States: access to healthcare is frequently presented as a topic, as well as common diseases such as heart disease, mental diseases, or diabetes. Looking at both the movie production and the health topics would give me the unique opportunity to go beyond the reporting that is usually done about Hollywood: about stars, about the Academy Awards, about the glamorous life in Beverly Hills, or Bel Air. Instead, I could give a detailed picture of some of the major healthcare challenges the American society is facing today.

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