William N. Ryerson

President, Population Media Center

"There is strong evidence that mass media, particularly entertainment broadcast media, have played a significant role in a number of countries in bringing about changes in reproductive behavior and in promoting adoption of other health measures. Radio and television soap operas in Mexico, Brazil, India, Kenya and Tanzania have been documented by independent research in their massive effects on audience attitudes and behavior with regard to HIV/AIDS avoidance and use of family planning."

Why does entertainment-education work? What makes this methodology such a powerful tool to positively change human behavior on a mass scale? In this paper, William N. Ryerson describes the effects of entertainment-education serial dramas on public health in Mexico, India, Kenya and Tanzania.

In Mexico, for example, when the first soap opera dealing with family planning issues was created in 1977, the Mexican government's national population council, CONAPO, reported that more than 2,000 women registered as voluntary workers in the national programme of family planning - an idea suggested in the television soap opera; contraceptive sales increased 23 percent in one year; and more than 560,000 women enrolled in family planning clinics. Similar responses to serial dramas can be found in India, Kenya and Tanzania as discussed by Ryerson.

"Next to peer and parental role models, role models from the mass media are of particular importance in shaping cultural attitudes and behavior."