The 1986 film “Top Gun” about the Navy’s elite fighter pilots proved to be a huge boon to Navy recruitment. In fact, recruiters set up tables in the lobbies of movie theaters to sign up people while they were still reeling from the Tom Cruise-induced (helped in no small party by Kelly McGillis) adrenaline rush. In addition to reaping the benefits, the military was heavily involved in the production of the film itself.
This past weekend “Contagion” opened up at the box office. It includes an array of Hollywood stars dealing with an outbreak of a deadly flu strain. In the past, movies based on bio-hazards rarely were fact-based and almost never invoked a serious response from the public health community. According to the CDC, this one is different:
"On September 9, Warner Brothers will be releasing the movie Contagion, a fictional drama that portrays CDC and other U.S. and international partners responding to an emerging infectious disease outbreak. We are reaching out to you in an effort to take advantage of this opportunity to provide accurate and potentially life-saving information to the public about how to prepare for a public health emergency.
When asked to respond to the inevitable question about the plot of the movie, “Could this really happen?” CDC is compelled to say,"Not only could it happen, CDC scientists are working 24/7 to find out if it’s happening right now.”
Wouldn’t it be great if the public health profession received a boost(er) because of a popular film? While recruiting for public health programs may not reach the Navy’s Top Gun-fueled peak, increased awareness of not only the CDC but also state and local efforts could help persuade decision makers not to balance budgets on the backs of these vital programs.
(h/t to Bill Cummings for the CDC quote, delivered through Eric Holdeman’s “Disaster Zone” blog.)