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Sentinel Awards to Honor Entertainment That Gives Voice to Topics of Health and Climate Change

sentinal By Armine Kourouyan Writers and producers are now eligible to submit entries for the annual Sentinel Awards, which since 1999 have honored TV shows and movies that inform, educate and motivate viewers to make choices for healthier and safer lives.

The awards are sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and presented by Hollywood, Health & Society, a program of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center.

This year, storylines will be recognized in the following categories: Drama, Comedy, Serial Drama, Climate Change, Reality/Talk/Documentary, Children’s Programming and Spanish-language.

“TV writers and producers not only entertain audiences, but they affect them as well,” said Martin Kaplan, director of The Norman Lear Center. “We know this both from our research, and from stories that viewers tell. This award recognizes the responsible and creative use of that power by television writers and producers.”

Kate Folb, director of Hollywood, Health & Society, added that “writers know that accurate and realistic portrayals make for more compelling stories. They contact us because they know we will provide them with information and access to credible experts—fast and for free. We work with dozens of shows across all genres, networks and cable channels on just about any health or climate change topic you can imagine.”

The 2014 winners will be selected through two rounds of judging. Subject matter experts from the CDC and other partner organizations will review entries for accuracy. Judges from entertainment and public health organizations will review finalists in each category for entertainment value and benefit to the viewing audience to determine the winners. The deadline for this year’s entries is May 30, and information for applicants can be found at http://bit.ly/1jNSRfM.

Last year, the Lifetime movie Call Me Crazy: A Five Film received first place in the Primetime Drama (Major Storyline) category for its portrayals of people dealing with mental illness. The ABC hit series Grey’s Anatomy won in the Primetime Drama (Minor Storyline) category for an episode involving a homeless patient whose drinking obscures a serious condition. Enlightened, a TV series on HBO, won in the Primetime Comedy category for a storyline on alcoholism and rehabilitation, and Doc McStuffins on the Disney Junior channel won in the Children’s programming category on the topic of sun exposure.

The first place award for Daytime Drama went to Days of Our Lives for a storyline on Alzheimer’s, and the HBO movie Mary and Martha took top honors in the Global Health category for its story about two women who turn their personal grief into a call for action against malaria in Africa. Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO) won in the Climate Change category for a compilation of the show’s interviews on global warming. Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (HBO) was the inaugural winner in a new Sentinel category, Reality, for the topic of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Funded by the CDC, The California Endowment, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ClimateWorks, the Grantham Foundation, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Barr Foundation and the Energy Foundation, Hollywood, Health & Society provides entertainment industry professionals with accurate and timely information for storylines dealing with health and climate change through consultations and briefings with experts. Based at The Norman Lear Center, HH&S is a one-stop shop for writers, producers and others in search of credible information on public health and climate change topics. For more information about resources for writers, go to www.usc.edu/hhs.

The Norman Lear Center is a multidisciplinary research and public policy center studying and shaping the impact of entertainment and media on society. From its base in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the Lear Center builds bridges between faculty who study aspects of entertainment, media and culture. Beyond campus, it bridges the gap between entertainment industry and academia, and between them and the public. For more information, visit www.learcenter.org.

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is among the nation’s leading institutions devoted to the study of journalism and communication, and their impact on politics, culture and society. With an enrollment of more than 2,000 graduate and undergraduate students (as of Fall 2011), USC Annenberg offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in journalism, communication, public diplomacy and public relations. For more information, visit www.annenberg.usc.edu.