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Reach and impact of a mass media event among vulnerable patients: the Terri Schiavo story.

Sudore RL, Landefeld CS, Pantilat SZ, Noyes KM, Schillinger D. Reach and impact of a mass media event among vulnerable patients: the Terri Schiavo story. Journal of general internal medicine. 2008 Nov 1; 23(11):1854-7.

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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 > or = 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 > or = 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.

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