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Public health crises in popular media: how viral outbreak films affect the public’s health literacy
  1. Evie Kendal
  1. Correspondence to Dr Evie Kendal, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health, Deakin University - Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds, Geelong, Victoria 3217, Australia; evie.kendal{at}


Infectious disease epidemics are widely recognised as a serious global threat. The need to educate the public regarding health and safety during an epidemic is particularly apparent when considering that behavioural changes can have a profound impact on disease spread. While there is a large body of literature focused on the opportunities and pitfalls of engaging mass news media during an epidemic, given the pervasiveness of popular film in modern society there is a relative lack of research regarding the potential role of fictional media in educating the public about epidemics. There is a growing collection of viral outbreak films that might serve as a source of information about epidemics for popular culture consumers that warrants critical examination. As such, this paper considers the motivating factors behind engaging preventive behaviours during a disease outbreak, and the role news and popular media may have in influencing these behaviours.

  • medical humanities
  • medical ethics/bioethics
  • film
  • public health

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.