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School of Medicine discoveries

June 8, 2011

Cancer education video brings home a Telly Award

And the award goes to …

This year, it goes to “It’s a Big Decision,” a 25-minute video that guides African-American men through making an informed choice on whether to undergo screening for prostate cancer.

That may not seem like standard fodder for the Telly Awards that are known for honoring local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs, video and film productions and work created for the Web.

But this is not your typical educational video. In fact, from its inception, Alton Hart Jr., M.D., M.P.H., envisioned a culturally relevant guide that engaged the imagination even as it helped men weigh the pros and cons and sort through differing screening recommendations.

He knew he’d need help along the way, and so he developed a network of community barbershops that were open to partnering with him. Through one-on-one interviews spanning many months, Hart asked questions of the barbershop patrons – representative voices of the men he ultimately hopes to influence. He received answers that guided the script and even the choice of which actors would bring life to the questions that men must confront.

With narration provided by Daphne Maxwell Reid, known by many as Aunt Viv on NBC’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” the resulting video follows the story-lines of three men. As entertaining as it is educational, Hart’s video appropriately premiered last winter at Richmond’s Bow-Tie Cinemas.

Now with a Telly Award in the video and film category, the video has been loaded onto hand-held, touch screen computers that are being tested for usability by barbershop patrons. Hart is requesting funding from National Institutes of Health for additional testing and, meanwhile, is preparing to present it to a new audience at the American Public Health Association’s film festival in Washington D.C. this November.

He’s also talking with VCU’s Intellectual Property office to copyright the video. If he decides to eventually offer it for sale, he’d like profits to go to a foundation that works to improve the health of African-American men.

An associate professor of internal medicine, Hart is also associate scientific director of the Center on Health Disparities. His initial work on the project was supported by a five-year career development grant from the American Cancer Society. If the video proves effective, he’d like it to be adapted to other health-care decisions facing African-American men.

Learn more about Hart’s research.

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Updated: 04/29/2016