2002 Porter Novelli Healthstyles Survey
Telenovela Viewers and Health Information
APHA Executive Summary, November 17, 2003
Analysis of the 2002 Porter Novelli HealthStyles database was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Hollywood, Health & Society at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. The dataset consists of responses from 21 items that were included in the national HealthStyles Survey to describe the characteristics of telenovela (Spanish-language soap opera) viewers, impact of health content in telenovelas, and top sources for health information among telenovela viewers.
The Porter Novelli HealthStyles survey is one of a pair of linked postal mail surveys sent to a sample which is drawn to be nationally representative on seven U.S. Census Bureau demographic characteristics. The first survey is a consumer survey in which data on general media habits, product use, interests, and lifestyle are collected. The second survey, HealthStyles, is administered to respondents to the first survey in which data on health attitudes, behaviors, conditions, and information seeking are collected. HealthStyles is a proprietary database product developed by Porter Novelli, a social marketing and public relations firm. The survey was conducted in July and August of 2002 with 4,397 respondents, 466 of which were Hispanic race/ethnicity.
Since this is an English-language mail survey, the sample drawn for telenovela viewers represents only a portion of the U.S. telenovela viewing audience. The data summarized here provide initial evidence to suggest potential impact of health content on the much larger audience of Spanish-language viewers to be surveyed in the next stage of research.
Five percent of all respondents (n=216) are telenovela viewers, i.e. viewers who watch telenovelas at least a few times a month (27% of Hispanics, 6% of Blacks, and 2% of Whites).
- Hispanic, lower income, lower educated, and younger age groups report more often learning something new about a health topic, taking action, making a health care choice, and providing health information to friends, family, or others after hearing about a health topic on a telenovela.
- Forty-two percent of respondents rate Spanish-language TV as a top source of learning about health, behind TV news/news magazine shows (48%) and health care providers (44%).
- Prime time TV entertainment shows are cited as a top source of learning about health by one in three telenovela viewers.
Two percent of all respondents (n=84) report they are regular viewers, i.e. they watch telenovelas at least two times a week.
- Nearly nine out of ten (88%) report knowing other friends or acquaintances who are also regular viewers of telenovelas.
- Prime time TV entertainment shows are cited as a top source of learning about health by one out of four regular telenovela viewers.
The 2002 HealthStyles survey indicates that 27% of the Hispanics who responded to this English-language survey are telenovela viewers. Since telenovelas are broadcast in Spanish, viewing frequency and impact are projected to be substantially higher among Spanish-language dominant households/viewers. All Hispanics represent 12.5% of the U.S. population or 35 million individuals (2000 U.S. Census). By the year 2035, there will be 75 million Hispanics comprising 20% of the U.S. population. Over the past 5 years, Hispanic-American TV households have grown by 19% compared with 29% growth of Spanish-dominant TV households – from 3.5 million to 4.6 million.
Since Hispanics experience a disproportionate burden of preventable disease, death, and disability compared to non-minorities, and may have limited access to health care, Spanish-language telenovelas can serve a critical health education service when they provide accurate, timely information about health issues. In addition, the daily format of telenovelas allows audiences to identify with characters since they see them so frequently and may relate to their situations. Research has demonstrated that this type of identification can enhance learning and prevention when viewers model desirable behavior and avoid undesirable behavior. When even a small percentage of viewers take action as the result of a TV storyline to protect or improve their own health or the health of someone they know, millions of people and their families can benefit. If a show fails to convey accurate information or shows risky behavior without the associated health consequences, viewers may suffer negative effects as well.
Writers and producers of telenovelas may want to consider:
- Topics and diseases that are most prevalent among U.S. Hispanics (e.g. diabetes, homicide, HIV, prenatal care, breast/cervical cancer, vaccines for children).
- Prevention information delivered or modeled by credible characters (e.g. checking the smoke alarm, using a seat belt, taking a daily vitamin, getting regular medical check-ups, getting a flu vaccine, exercising).
- Storylines that explore the impact of disease, injury, and disability on people’s lives, and how they can find help within the health care system or their local communities.
- Characters with negative beliefs and poor health practices suffering the consequences (e.g. a smoker who is diagnosed with lung cancer or an inactive adult who finds he has diabetes).
- Challenges and struggles characters face in making changes and the positive outcomes that result when they choose more positive beliefs and practices (e.g. the smoker who quits and stops coughing or the teen who is overweight but starts to become physically active).
- Storylines with characters who have health limitations or impairment but practice healthy behaviors that contribute to their quality of life (e.g. an HIV-positive person who gets regular check-ups and takes his medication with care).
(Sample Size: 4,397 Respondents)
Frequency of Spanish Language Telenovela Viewing by Audiences
Five percent (n=216) of all respondents are telenovela viewers who watch telenovelas (like Amigas y rivales, La intrusa, El derrecho de nacer, Pedro el escamoso, or Corazón salvaje) at least a few times a month (27% of Hispanics, 6% of Blacks, and 2% of Whites).
Thirty-nine percent (n=84) of all telenovela viewers (2% of all respondents) are regular viewers who watch two or more times a week.
|Table 1. Frequency of Spanish Language Telenovela Viewing by Audiences|
|55 and above||13%||12%|
|$25K to $59K||34%||38%|
|High school or less||57%||37%|
|College or above||19%||22%|
Among all telenovela viewers, 59% are Hispanic, 14% Black, and 23% White. Higher income and higher education groups are less represented, as are older and younger age groups.
Regular telenovela viewing is reported by:
- 82% are Hispanic, 3% are Black, and 15% are White
- 57% have high school or less education and 42% have less than $25K income
- Nearly nine out of ten (88%) regular viewers report they know at least some Spanish-speaking acquaintances who also view telenovelas or dramas at least twice a week
Telenovelas as a Source fore Learning about Health
About six out of ten (61%) regular viewers and 38% of all viewers indicated they learned something new about a health topic from a telenovela storyline.
Nearly half (49%) of Hispanics who viewed a few times a month indicated they learned something new about a health topic from a telenovela storyline.
Sources for Health Information
About four out of ten (42%) of regular telenovela viewers report Spanish-language television is a top three source of learning about health, with nearly half (48%) reporting TV news/news magazine shows and 44% reporting health care providers.
One-third (33%) of regular viewers report prime time TV shows as a top three source – about the same as those who report friends/family and more than those who report newspapers (30%).
|Table 2. Sources for Health Information|
|TV News or News Magazine Shows||48%||64%||67%|
|Health Care Providers||44%||41%||45%|
|Spanish Language Television||42%||19%||1%|
|Prime time TV Entertainment Shows||33%||28%||25%|
|Spanish Language Radio||8%||7%||0.4%|
Impact of Health Topics in Telenovelas: Actions Taken
More than eight out of ten (83%) regular viewers and three-quarters (76%) of all viewers heard something about a health issue or disease in a telenovela within the past year.
Nearly half (49%) of regular viewers and 31% of all viewers took one or more actions as a result. Among all viewers, 63% of Hispanics took one or more actions.
|Table 3. Actions Taken by telenovela viewers|
|Told Someone about the story or health topic||31%||18%|
|Told someone to do something or did something myself||16%||12%|
|Visited a Clinic, Doctor, or Nurse||14%||8%|
|Called a clinic, health care place, or hotline number||7%||3%|
Make a health care choice
Four out of ten (43%) regular viewers and 31% of all viewers report that a telenovela storyline helped them make a health care choice.
More than one-third (38%) of Hispanics who viewed a few times a month, report that a telenovela storyline helped them make a health care choice.
Provide important health information to their friends/family
More than half (55%) of regular viewers and 39% of all viewers report that a telenovela storyline helped them provide important health information to their friends, family, or others.
Nearly half (48%) of Hispanics who viewed a few times a month report that a telenovela storyline helped them provide important health information to their friends, family, or others.
- Beck, V., Huang, G.C., Pollard, W.E., Johnson, T.J. (2003). Telenovela viewers and health information. Paper presented at the American Public Health Association 131st Annual Meeting and Exposition, San Francisco, California.
- Page last reviewed: February 2, 2011
- Page last updated: February 2, 2011
- Content source:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Page maintained by: Division of Public Affairs (DPA), Office of the Associate Director for Communication (OADC)