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Tuesday 18 February 2003

CDC Propaganda Tip Sheets

A few years ago, the big news story was that the government was effectively paying TV networks for weaving anti-drug messages into their programs. Basically, if your programming had enough anti-drug messages in the story itself, you didn’t have to provide the government with free ad time for their own anti-drug ads.

I’ve never been able to find the government’s guidelines for what constitutes an acceptable level of anti-drug hysteria in this program, but I have stumbled onto the next best thing: The CDC’s “Resources for TV Writers and Producers”. The idea is that the CDC would like to see more pro-health messages on TV, and they want to make it as easy as possible for the people who make TV to make this happen. The CDC has a website packed full of interesting script tips and case examples, such as this one for chicken pox:

A young teacher who never had chickenpox was exposed to several children in her classroom with chickenpox. She ultimately comes down with the disease and dies.

And this one for getting the word out about ulcers:

A 35-year-old woman has recurrent abdominal pain. She thinks she has pelvic inflammatory disease and she’ll never have children because her fallopian tubes are scarred. This causes the break-up of her marriage. She finally visits a physician who correctly diagnoses the source of her recurrent abdominal pain as peptic ulcer disease. She receives 2 weeks of antibiotics and is cured for good. Her husband comes back and begs forgiveness, but it’s too late because she leaves him for the hero physician who cured her ulcer.

The that-awful-man subplot is present in a number of the vignettes:

Dr. Smith passes Dan, a new resident, whispering over the phone about an incident the night before. Dan is angry with his fiancée for calling the police to press charges and threatens that if it happens again she will be sorry. Several weeks later, a woman is rushed into the emergency room with multiple bruises, scrapes, and abrasions. Dan recognizes the women as a former classmate of his fiancée and ignores the needs of this patient. Dr. Smith notices Dan’s lack of empathy in providing care for this patient and confronts him. An argument ensues and the patient gets involved, recalling a fight she witnessed between Dan and his fiancée in the school parking lot. Dan thought no one was watching when he punched his fiancée in the eye. Stunned by this revelation, Dr. Smith insists on a hospital review of Dan’s handling of this patient and the alleged personal issues.

I think I’ve actually seen that one turned into an episode of ER, before I stopped watching it because it had become little more than a one-hour government PSA.

There’s one about the importance of not going in public swimming pools if you have diarrhea, about child car seats, the dangers of teen driving (which seem mainly to revolve around the dangers of teens getting incredibly drunk and then driving), and so on.

This one, about the dangers of smokeless tobacco — which the government persists in calling “spit tobacco” — takes the cake:

Life is good for Martina, the star forward on the Anytown State women’s basketball team. She has a bright future in professional basketball until she injures her ankle. She goes to the doctor, who naturally wants to take a look at Martina’s ankle. The doctor notices the curious brown stains on the toe of the athlete’s sock. After finally convincing her to remove her sock, the doctor discovers tobacco leaves between Martina’s toes (the nicotine is being absorbed through the skin). She begs the doctor to keep this between the two of them because there could be some serious consequences if the wrong person were to find out. The doctor agrees not to tell her coach, but only if she’ll stop using. The doctor reviews the real risks of chewing tobacco, including cancer. Frightened, Martina promises to quit.

Thus reducing her risk of toe cancer. (Note than no actual spitting is involved in this denunciation of “spit tobacco”.)

Posted by tino at 17:46 18.02.03
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