I’ve been fascinated as of late by the new approaches being taken by health-related professional organizations to reach out and inform the public. My recent experience at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting was unlike any I had even ten years ago – the society has clearly made a greater effort in outreach and inclusion to make their information digestible to the general public and express great appreciation to patients enrolling in clinical trials, the true heroes of medical research.
Innovative outreach and public education needs to take advantage of unconventional modes of scientific and medical communication. Awhile back, my university ran a theatre performance of a story on an African-American gentleman with prostate cancer. The theatre run provided an opportunity to educate 1,200 show-goers to the need for prostate cancer testing.
In this light, I was intrigued by a press release I received yesterday from a publicity firm representing the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the arm of NIH currently dedicated to the study, prevention, and treatment of dependence on psychoactive substances other than alcohol. Interestingly, the target audience for the following project is not necessarily the public but rather primary care health professionals – one can even get CME credits:
[T]he Addiction Performance Project, [is] a new program the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) launched last month in Boston to help health professionals better identify and treat or refer drug-addicted patients in primary care settings. The Addiction Performance Project is a series of dramatic readings by award-winning, professional actors that help break down the stigma associated with addiction and encourage a dialogue that fosters compassion and understanding for patients living with this disease.
Almost 21 million patients who need specialized treatment for a drug or alcohol problem didn’t receive it in 2009. Research suggests that primary care doctors could significantly help reduce drug abuse; yet many express concern that they do not have the experience or tools to identify drug use in their patients.
The performances are part of a free continuing medical education (CME) curricula developed through NIDA’s outreach to practicing physicians, physicians in training, and other health professionals. Each performance begins with a reading of Act III of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” It is followed by a brief expert panel reaction and audience discussion that taps into the plays’ key themes to address challenges and opportunities in caring for addicted patients.
The Addiction Performance Project fosters a dialogue about:
- The role of individual biases and beliefs about people who abuse drugs and how these beliefs affect individual physician screening and treatment of patients
- How to incorporate screening, intervention, and referral to treatment into primary care settings
Currently, the 2011 run of the Addiction Performance Project includes:
Boston, MA (March 28) – featured actors Kathleen Chalfant, Harris Yulin, Bryce Pinkham, and Megan Brotherton
Washington, DC (April 16) – featuring actors Harris Yulin and Blythe Danner
Phoenix, AZ (May 6) – featuring Kathleen Chalfant and other actors to be announced
I’m not sure why I received this press release so late because readers in Boston are probably disappointed that they completely missed the opportunity to see this performance (perhaps I’m on the “B” or “C” list for publicists?). However, for friends up in The District, you can see the performance this upcoming Saturday. Folks in the Southwest get their chance next month.
(Update: I’ve since learned that the Boston date was a pilot program. The first actively promoted performance is the one in DC on the 16th.)
In fact, go to the website here because each date has been updated with additional performances. For example, the DC date is preceded by a performance at George Washington University on Friday night the 15th.
I’m interested enough to look into how this program can be syndicated for theatres around the country – but I just wanted to get this information in front of you now in case you find yourselves in Washington this weekend.