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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Pitt’s Primack to Lead New Program for Research on Media and Health

PITTSBURGH, May 23, 2012 – The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has established a new research program that will work to understand the relationship between media exposures and health, with the goal of improving health outcomes.

The Program for Research on Media and Health (PROMH) will be led by Brian Primack, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Pitt’s School of Medicine and a leading researcher in the fields of media and health. The new program falls within the school’s Division of General Internal Medicine.

“Youth and adults are exposed to media such as television and the Internet for the majority of their waking hours, and the messages they get can be confusing. While studies suggest some exposures contribute to drug use, obesity and violence, other media such as public service announcements and health-promoting video games may improve health. These are all areas we want to understand more,” said Wishwa Kapoor, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and vice chair of the Department of Medicine, Pitt School of Medicine. 

Dr. Primack is a practicing physician with a master’s degree in education from Harvard and a Ph.D. in clinical and translational science from the University of Pittsburgh. This background enables him to lead multidisciplinary projects investigating the potential value of “media literacy education” defined as the ability to analyze and evaluate media messages. Dr. Primack currently leads projects testing the ability of media literacy to be used as an intervention in areas as disparate as preventing adolescent substance use and promoting evidence-based prescribing by doctors. Other recent research areas of PROMH include the influence of risk-taking behaviors portrayed in popular music, media portrayal of hookah tobacco smoking, and differences between real and televised emergency medicine.

“I am honored to be leading this effort and very pleased to have such strong institutional support,” Dr. Primack said. “We often only hear about the ways media messages can be harmful to health. But the truth is that media messages are tools like any others, which can have negative influences in some ways and positive influences in others. Our hope will ultimately be to implement interventions to promote the positive and reduce the negative.”

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