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Getting a Handle on the Media: Where Should We Focus Our Efforts?

  • James D. Sargent
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to James D. Sargent, MD, Co-director, Cancer Control Research Program, Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire 03156.
    Affiliations
    Dartmouth Medical School, Cancer Control Research Program, Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Lebanon, NH
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      Concern about adverse effects of entertainment media have been around since movies were first exhibited in this country in 1896. Just 11 years later, Chicago became one of the first cities to censor movies, when the city council empowered the chief of police to deny permits for exhibitors to show movies with objectionable content. If denied a permit, the movie producer was required to cut scenes to meet the censor's standards. Despite ongoing concern about the “powerful” effects of entertainment media, until recently there were few studies actually linking entertainment media to what we now call risky behaviors. In the last 2 decades, we have witnessed a surge of media research using increasingly sophisticated methods for assessing exposure and health outcomes. In 2008, a report by the National Cancer Institute concluded there was enough evidence to support a causal relationship between exposure to smoking in movies and youth smoking onset.
      • National Cancer Institute
      The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use.
      A 2008 study used review criteria developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to grade evidence for a relationship between media use and 7 health outcomes, extending the National Cancer Institute report by concluding there was “grade A” evidence to support a relationship with obesity and tobacco use, and “grade B” evidence to support a relationship with alcohol use, poor school performance, and sexual behavior.
      • Nunez-Smith M.
      • Wolf E.
      • Huang H.M.
      • et al.
      Media and child and adolescent health: a systematic review.
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