Do no harm: media influence on health

INDIANAPOLIS – Brian Primack, MD, PhD, didn’t start out his academic career in medicine. In fact, his undergraduate degree is in English literature and mathematics.

It was only after pursuing a master’s degree in human development and psychology that he trained in family medicine. Today, much of Dr. Primack’s research blends together his interests in education, literature and psychology to consider how media and technology influence health.

“There are so many concerns we have about behavior that starts in adolescence, from substance use to mental health to eating behaviors. I became very interested in trying to leverage some of what I knew about education and development to improve the health of those across the country,” said Primack.

 “I believe media and technology are a double-edged sword; many people study only the positive effects, while others focus on the negative effects. I recognize media and technology as a spectrum. In some ways, media provide challenges for health and healthcare. In other ways, it may be able to help.”

Dr. Primack is a pioneer in the study of media, technology, and healthcare, and his work has substantially influenced international dialogue and policy. At the University of Pittsburgh, he is the dean of the Honors College; professor of medicine and pediatrics and the director for the Center of Media, Technology, and Health.

Some of Dr. Primack’s research looks at newer forms of tobacco use, like e-cigarettes. He’s also interested in direct to consumer advertising and how social media affects mental health.

Knowing and understanding the strategies will hopefully empower physicians to immediately address issues with their patients in a practical way.

Brian Primack, MD, PhD