2010 Sentinel for Health Awards Finalists Announced

Hollywood, Health & Society, a joint program of the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced nine finalists for the Sentinel for Health Awards.

In its 11th year, the Sentinel for Health Awards recognizes exemplary achievements of television storylines that inform, educate and motivate viewers to make choices for healthier and safer lives. Five categories of storylines will be recognized - primetime drama, primetime drama minor storyline, children's programming, telenovela, and global health storyline.

The nine finalists received the highest scores in a field of 35 eligible entries from 19 shows that were reviewed by topic experts at the CDC and partner organizations. Health topics addressed in the storylines include HIV, alcohol abuse, polio, sexual assault, organ donation, diabetes and cancer.

All finalists will be recognized in an awards ceremony followed by a panel discussion with the writers on Wednesday, September 22, 2010, at the Writers Guild of America, West, in Los Angeles.

"We're delighted to shine a spotlight on television writers and producers who both entertain viewers and at the same time provide them with accurate information," says Martin Kaplan, the Norman Lear Chair at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and director of the Lear Center. "Our hope is that the storylines we honor with this award will spur other TV writers to recognize and use responsibly the awesome power they wield."

Hollywood, Health & Society works with nationally recognized experts from government, academic and nonprofit organizations to consult with TV writers on health issues in storylines. HH&S staff responded to hundreds of requests from daytime and primetime TV writers during the past year.

"Every day millions of viewers worldwide learn something new about health from TV storylines and take action on what they've learned," says Sandra de Castro Buffington, director of the Hollywood, Health & Society program. "Viewers turn on their televisions to follow the stories that touch their hearts and minds, and strongly influence their choice making. Recognizing the profound impact of TV storylines on health knowledge, attitudes and behavior, we honor writers and producers who weave accurate health messages into their storytelling."   

First-round judging for the Sentinel for Health Awards focused on accuracy of health depictions. Seventeen panels of topic experts participated in this activity at CDC and partner organizations. Entries were scored by the experts and those with the highest scores became finalists. The nine finalists were then reviewed for entertainment value and potential benefit to the viewing audience by two panels of judges representing entertainment, news media, and academic and public health organizations.

The 2010 Sentinel for Health Awards finalists are:

Primetime Drama
  • Army Wives (Lifetime): "Claudia Joy's Diabetes" (diabetes); Written by Karen Maser, Rebecca Dameron, T.D. Mitchell, Elizabeth Jacobs
  • Grey's Anatomy (ABC): "How Insensitive" (obesity and patient sensitivity); Written by Bill Harper
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC): "Hammered" (alcohol abuse); Written by Dawn DeNoon
Primetime Minor Storyline
  • Private Practice (ABC): "Triangles" (schizophrenia); Written by Steve Blackman
Children's Programming
  • Sesame Workshop (PBS Primetime Special): "Families Stand Together" (financial stress); Written by Chrissy Ferraro
  • Sesame Workshop (PBS Primetime Special): "When Families Grieve" (grief & bereavement); Written by Chrissy Ferraro
  • El Cartel 2 (Caracol TV): "Larissa's Baby" (folic acid and healthy pregnancy); Written by Jorg Hiller
  • Perro Amor (Telemundo): "To Give Folic Acid Is To Love You" (folic acid and healthy pregnancy); Written by Roberto Stopello and Juana Uribe
Global Health Storyline
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC): "Witness" (rape in the Congo); Written by Dawn DeNoon and Christine M. Torres
Funded by the CDC, The California Endowment, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Health Resources and Services Administration's Division of Transplantation, The National Institutes of Health, The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, Hollywood, Health & Society provides entertainment industry professionals with accurate and timely information for health storylines, including free consultations and briefings with CDC and partner experts. The program is based at the USC Annenberg School's Norman Lear Center as a one-stop-shop for writers, producers and others in search of credible information on a wide range of public health topics. For more information about resources for writers, visit www.usc.edu/hhs.

The Norman Lear Center is a multidisciplinary research and public policy center studying and shaping the impact of entertainment and media on society. Based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the Lear Center works to bridge the gap between the entertainment industry and academia, and between them and the public. For more information, visit www.learcenter.org.