Overcome the Fear (Vencer el Miedo): using entertainment education to impact adolescent sexual and reproductive health and parent-child communication in Mexico

BMC Public Health. 2022 Dec 16;22(1):2366. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-14853-8.


Background: Adolescents in Mexico experience high pregnancy and birth rates. A collaboration with Grupo Televisa led to the development of an entertainment-education telenovela intervention, Overcome the Fear (OTF), which aired in 2020 to a national audience and addressed adolescent sexual and reproductive health (SRH) topics. This study details the development and evaluation of OTF's impact on adolescent contraceptive practices and parent-adolescent SRH communication in Mexico.

Methods: We conducted cross-sectional survey interviews (street-intercept and telephone) with 12-19-year-olds (n = 1640) and parents of adolescent children (n = 820) post-broadcast across Mexico's five most-populated metropolitan zones. Quotas were implemented for gender, zone, and OTF viewership (viewer vs. non-viewer). Bivariate statistics and multivariable binary logistic regression models assessed the relationship between OTF viewership (including parent-adolescent co-viewing) and adolescent contraceptive practices and parent-adolescent SRH communication. Adolescent and parent data are not dyadic and were analyzed separately.

Results: Nearly half of adolescents (47.9%) and parents (47.7%) were viewers. Among adolescents, bivariate analyses suggest that viewers had less negative attitudes towards contraception (p < .001). Logistic regression models suggest that adolescent viewers were more likely to seek out information about contraception (p < .001) and unhealthy romantic relationships (p = .019), and to use contraception other than condoms (p = .027) and dual contraception (p = .042) in the last 3 months. Among parents, bivariate analyses suggest that non-viewers had more positive attitudes towards abstinence (p = .045) and more negative attitudes towards contraception and communication with adolescents about sex (p = .001). Logistic regression models suggest that parent viewers were more likely to have talked with adolescent children about sexual relations (p < .001), contraceptive methods (p = .01), condoms (p = .002), and abstinence (p = .002) in the last 3 months. Parent-adolescent co-viewing of OTF was also significantly related to certain outcomes in bivariate analyses.

Conclusions: This study suggests that viewership of a high-quality entertainment-education telenovela informed by extensive formative research is related to adolescent health outcomes and to parent-adolescent SRH communication on a country-wide scale in Mexico. Entertainment-education remains an underutilized public health strategy, despite its promise to engage viewers and motivate healthful behaviors.

Keywords: Adolescent health; Entertainment-education; Evaluation; Family planning; Mexico; Sexual and reproductive health; Surveys; Telenovela.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health
  • Communication
  • Contraception
  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Health Communication*
  • Humans
  • Mexico
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Health* / education
  • Sexual Behavior


  • Contraceptive Agents