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Health Educ Res. 1995 Jun;10(2):225-32.

The use of television series in health education.

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Faculty of Communication, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt.


This paper reviews evidence of the impact which television generally, and drama series in particular, can have on health beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. It describes how a television series, The Family House, was planned in Egypt to disseminate key health messages in an entertaining context. As only a very small number of television series were specifically developed to address health issues, and even fewer were evaluated, this paper presents important new data derived from focus group discussions and survey interviews which help in understanding the potential television series can have for health education. Finally, the paper presents data on the cost-effectiveness of The Family House series.


The health-promoting impact of television (TV) programming, especially in serial form, has been well documented in several countries, but, since special programming is accompanied by enhanced service delivery, it is impossible to ascertain the absolute role of television. In Egypt, 95% of the population has access to TV, and 90% watch a TV series each night. Since 65% of Egyptian women and 35% of men are illiterate, TV can play a very important role in health education. A series entitled "The Family House" was created in Egypt between 1990 and 1992 and first broadcast in 1993. While the series includes a typically wide variety of problems, one of the main characters is a physician, so health and social problems are emphasized. Evaluation of the series took the form of 1) seven focus groups with approximately six people each who previewed the first episode and 2) a survey of 600 viewers after the series was broadcast. Both samples contained urban and rural men and women. The focus group previewers were enthusiastic about The Family House and considered it to have most of the elements of a "good" series, which included the fact that they could learn from it. The national survey viewers shared this opinion, but some distinctions were revealed when the data were broken down by income group for Cairo and by urban/rural residence for Lower and Upper Egypt. Rural viewers liked the series more than viewers from Cairo, especially Cairenes with high incomes. Women also liked the series more than men did, except for the high-income women of Cairo, who were the least positive about it. This evaluation considered the simple behavior change of watching the series. Appropriate methodology must be used to evaluate the impact of the series in the future. The very low per capita cost of the series points to TV as one of the most cost-effective ways to delivery health education messages.

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