Brief Report

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, 23:1854

First online:

Reach and Impact of a Mass Media Event Among Vulnerable Patients: The Terri Schiavo Story

  • Rebecca L. SudoreAffiliated withDivision of Geriatrics, University of California, San FranciscoSan Francisco VA Medical CenterDepartment of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco Email author 
  • , C. Seth LandefeldAffiliated withDivision of Geriatrics, University of California, San FranciscoSan Francisco VA Medical CenterDepartment of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • , Steven Z. PantilatAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • , Kathryn M. NoyesAffiliated withDivision of Geriatrics, University of California, San FranciscoSan Francisco VA Medical Center
  • , Dean SchillingerAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, University of California, San FranciscoUCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, San Francisco General Hospital

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Abstract

Background

It is unknown whether health-related media stories reach diverse older adults and influence advance care planning (ACP).

Objective

To determine exposure to media coverage of Terri Schiavo (TS) and its impact on ACP.

Design and Participants

Descriptive study of 117 English/Spanish-speakers, aged ≥50 years (mean 61 years) from a county hospital, interviewed six months after enrollment into an advance directive study.

Measurements

We assessed whether participants had heard of TS and subject characteristics associated with exposure. We also asked whether, because of TS, subjects engaged in ACP.

Main Results

Ninety-two percent reported hearing of TS. Participants with adequate literacy were more likely than those with limited literacy to report hearing of TS (100% vs. 79%, P < .001), as were participants with ≥ a high school vs. < high school education (97% vs. 82%, P = .004), and English vs. Spanish-speakers (96% vs. 85%, P = .04). Because of TS, many reported clarifying their own goals of care (61%), talking to their family/friends about ACP (66%), and wanting to complete an advance directive (37%).

Conclusions

Most diverse older adults had heard of TS and reported that her story activated them to engage in ACP. Media stories may provide a powerful opportunity to engage patients in ACP and develop public health campaigns.

KEY WORDS

mass media public health advance care planning health literacy vulnerable populations