Grey’s Anatomy Makes Viewers Health Aware
In an episode of last season's Grey's Anatomy, researchers from the Kaiser Family Foundation worked with the show's writers to inject some real-life facts into the show to see if audiences would retain the knowledge after watching the medical drama.
In the episode, an HIV-positive woman demands an abortion when she learns she is pregnant out of fear that she will pass the AIDS virus on to her infant. Izzy Stevens informs her that she actually has a 98% chance of giving birth to a healthy, HIV-free baby with the proper pre-natal treatment.
Randomly selected regular Grey's Anatomy watchers were questioned, testing their knowledge and attitudes about HIV-positive women giving birth. Three surveys were given, one before the show aired in May 2008, a week after the show aired, and a follow-up six weeks later.
Here is one question viewers were asked:
"As far as you know, if a woman who is HIV positive becomes pregnant and receives the proper treatment, what is the chance that she will give birth to a healthy baby, not infected with HIV?
The answer? There is a more than 90% chance of having a healthy baby with the right treatment.
Here are the percentages of viewers who got that right:
- Before the show aired, 15% answered correctly.
- 61% knew it a week after seeing the show.
- 45% retained that knowledge six weeks later.
The respondents were asked whether this next statement was true or false:
"If a woman who has HIV or AIDS becomes pregnant, there is nothing that can be done to prevent the virus from infecting the unborn baby."
- A week before the episode aired, 53% knew the correct answer. (It's false.)
- A week after the show aired, 76% knew the answer was false.
- Six weeks after the program aired, 63% still knew the correct answer.
The majority of respondents believed that it would be irresponsible for an HIV-infected woman to have a baby prior to viewing the show, but afterwards that percentage dropped down to 47% - clearly television and dramatic plot lines have the ability to sway misinformed public opinion. On a larger scale, this study emphasizes the notion that shows like Grey's Anatomy should be fact-checking their plot lines or run the risk of contributing to greater disinformation within society.