New Pitt Center to Advance Research on Technology, Media and Health

Would celebratory music and a thousand “points” per pill encourage a patient with heart disease to take her medication? If social media friends congratulate an overweight person for skipping dessert, will it help him shed pounds? 

Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D, (above) will direct the new Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

Conversely, do song lyrics glorifying alcohol use inspire binge drinking in teens? Does continuous exposure to images of negative TV news footage influence depression or anxiety?

The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences today announced the creation of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health (CRMTH) to tackle questions like these across a broad range of disciplines.  

“Technological innovation has proceeded so rapidly that youths ages 8 to 18 are now exposed to more than eight hours a day of electronic media messages outside of school,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine. “While these emerging exposures pose risks to health, they also may be leveraged to improve health.”

As the recently appointed assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences, Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., will direct the new center, which is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Internet, social media, television, films, music and video games are all examples of media and technology that can affect our health and wellness,” said Dr. Primack, associate professor of medicine, pediatrics, and clinical and translational science in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “These exposures may have positive or negative influences, and educational and policy-related interventions may be effective at buffering negative influences and bolstering positive ones.”

Last week, Dr. Primack gave a related talk in San Francisco at “TEDMED 2014: Unlocking Imagination,” a three-day gathering designed to drive innovation in health and medicine. The event featured short, thought-provoking talks by speakers invited based on their expertise, innovation and passion in their field.

Dr. Primack, also a practicing family physician, gave the 12-minute presentation to get ideas flowing about how to simultaneously mitigate the negative effects of video games while also harnessing their potential to improve health.

CRMTH faculty and staff will explore this concept and other related topics through collaborations with numerous schools and centers at Pitt, including the Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, Dental Medicine, Public Health, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Social Work, as well as Pitt’s Health Policy Institute.

“U.S. and international health policy needs to embrace the development of technology and recognize its impacts on human health,” said Everette James, J.D., M.B.A., director of Pitt’s Health Policy Institute and the M. Allen Pond Professor of Health Policy and Management in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. “While technological advancement and the influence of media present challenges, research from our new center will provide important scientific evidence and help inform policymaking in this emerging field.”

In addition to performing research and developing and testing interventions, CRMTH will include an educational component to integrate an awareness of the impact of media and technology on health for students in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences.

CRMTH is funded by NIH, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the ABMRF/The Alcohol Research Foundation, and pilot grants from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the Pitt Health Policy Institute.


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