April 24, 2009

Celebrity DUIs = Teachable moments

U.S. policy experts say the media ignores the public health context of celebrity driving under the influence arrests.

The recent DUI arrests of celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan -- these experts say -- yielded widespread news coverage, but a qualitative analysis of 150 print and 16 television news reports in ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, The New York Times, TIME and People magazine showed 4 percent made any mention of DUI injury or potential injury.

Study lead author Katherine Smith of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health Center in Baltimore says DUI stories raise awareness of the issue but the media are missing an opportunity to educate this audience on solutions to prevent DUI.

Previous research has demonstrated that medical-related celebrity news, such as reports of breast cancer, can motivate the public to seek cancer screening services like mammography, the researchers say.

The results of the study are scheduled to be published in the May issue of Alcohol & Alcoholism and are available on the journal's Web site in advance of the print publication.