Movies and Medicine – contd.

Multitudes who are afflicted with hypertension, don’t know that they are, or even if they know, they don’t care enough! Why would they? They think elevated blood pressure is a temporary phenomenon. A dip-stick consumer insight survey showed that people thought of hypertension as HYPER-tension (too much tension!) and thought of themselves as ‘cool’ if they had hypertension!! It showed that they were important people who had lots of work related stress and therefore, had HYPER-tension. Funny, but true, and therefore tragic. It would take ages to get them to understand that this is a condition, that if untreated, could one day lead to a heart attack or a stroke and cause permanent disability if not death!

How does one get across such an important message to the uninitiated masses with the most impact? What’s common between social messages and the masses? How is mass opinion formed and expressed? By movies!!!! The Cinema!! Remember the famous “lymphosarcoma of the intestine” that the superstar of the 70s, Rajesh Khanna, died of in Anand? Blood cancer and brain tumors were made famous through movies such as Mili and Majboor. Most recently, Phir Milenge was a classic movie that created awareness on HIV/AIDS.

What if a movie is made with Shah Rukh Khan or another star with mass appeal playing a character that lives a life that the Framingham Study, JNC-7 and NCEP-ATP 3 prohibit? What these guidelines advocate is the life of a monk! Consumers told us that when we questioned them in a survey. “Everything that tastes good is bad for health”, they moaned, after a diet and counselling exercise during a health camp that we conducted during World Heart Day on Sep 30th. That set me thinking. A movie showing the life of a man who does everything right professionally and everything wrong health-wise. He is single….late 20s early 30s…..very successful, works hard and parties harder (ample scope for the lady love and a few songs!). Very similar to Keanu Reeves character in Sweet November (http://www.cinemasense.com/Reviews/sweet_november.htm). Through the movie, the character goes through all the risk factors of CVD, is diagnosed hypertensive and simply does not care until………heart attack! Does he die? Of course not!! Thats what great doctors and innovative medicines are there for. After all we work for a healthier world, dont we?! This is a very broad idea of the script.

A very broad plan is to see if a mass media attempt to create awareness on hypertension would work! Movie reviews, actor interviews, cardiologists (who play themselves in the movie) interviews, public debates on national TV, blog reviews, campaigns in schools and colleges (movies would work well with kids) where the actors promote awareness of causes of HTN and tell people to take care, corporate camps to tap young parents and professionals etc. The works!

Would this work? If the movie is well made (like Phir Milenge) it will. But like most movies, simply creating awareness does not work. This has to go on and on, endlessly, for years. Like the Nirodh campaign and the effect that it had on my generation, we might have to wait for 20-25 years to see whether we have truly been successful in causing a successful mass health behavioral shift. Can we do a Kamasutra with this campaign?

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