Physical Activity: Campaigns & Promotions

Background on Campaigns & Promotions

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expandWhat are campaigns and promotions strategies?

collapseWhat are campaigns and promotions strategies?

  • Intervention tools used to educate the public about physical activity and to promote an increase in physical activity (e.g., duration, frequency, intensity) in your community.
  • This can occur through television advertisements, newspapers, posters, billboards, brochures and a number of other communication channels.
  • Using specific physical activity messages, campaigns and promotions can
    • highlight the association between physical activity and health outcomes (e.g., physical activity and CVD),
    • promote behavioral change (e.g., increase walking or biking),
    • improve knowledge about the benefits and challenges to being physically active (e.g., increased energy, lack of time),
    • change community norms (e.g., increasing transit use to increase walking and minimize automobile use),
    • encourage healthy living (e.g., incorporating physical activity into daily routines such as walking the dog or walking the kids to school).

expandHow do campaigns and promotions impact physical activity related behaviors?

collapseHow do campaigns and promotions impact physical activity related behaviors?

  • Campaigns and promotions, when used alone, have been effective in changing knowledge, awareness, and attitudes about physical activity. Some campaigns have also demonstrated the ability to increase individuals’ intention to be active or their confidence in becoming physically active.
  • To date, most physical activity campaigns and promotions have focused on changing individual behavior and social norms, with fewer used to influence policy and environmental factors that affect one’s ability to be physically active in a particular community. However, because of their success in changing awareness and attitudes, these interventions have an important role in helping to influence public opinion in favor of policies supporting physical activity.

expandWhat are mass media campaigns and how can I use them in my physical activity intervention?

collapseWhat are mass media campaigns and how can I use them in my physical activity intervention?

  • Physical activity campaigns and promotions are largely comprised of mass media campaigns.  This intervention tool is designed to translate what are often complicated physical activity messages into specific, easily understood messages.  Mass media campaigns also serve to increase knowledge and awareness about the relationship between physical activity and health, change attitudes and community norms, and provide physically active alternatives.  Mass media campaigns use media channels (e.g., newspaper, radio, television, internet) to deliver messages to large numbers of people (e.g., schools, workplaces, communities, regions, states).
  • One of the strengths of mass media campaigns is their ability to reach and educate large numbers of individuals on the importance of physical activity. If, for example, a mass media campaign in a county of 500,000 people successfully increases physically activity in only 3% of the population, then the campaign has impacted the health of 15,000 people.  
  • Additionally, mass media campaigns can minimize staff time once the campaign is up and running because individuals read, watch, or listen to the messages on their own. They can also be relatively less expensive per person if the intervention is targeting a large community.  Reaching this many people through other intervention strategies may require more time and funding that is often unavailable.  Finally, the messages and materials have the ability to be reused or updated for long-term efforts.
  • Mass media campaigns (particularly television advertisements) can be very expensive to get started and may seem impersonal to individuals in need of social support. In addition, these campaigns are difficult to evaluate in terms of tracking how many individuals actually received or read the messages, whether individuals changed behavior as a result of the mass media campaign and whether the behavior change has been sustained over time.

expandWhat should I consider when developing messages for my physical activity intervention?

collapseWhat should I consider when developing messages for my physical activity intervention?

  • The duration of campaigns and promotions influence their effectiveness in changing physical activity behavior. While small-scale campaigns with specific messages tailored to population subgroups are more effective than larger campaigns among these groups, they have lower overall population impact.  Likewise, longer, more intensive campaigns featuring frequent messages through a variety of communication channels are more effective in changing behavior as well as maintaining behavior change over time, but are far more complex and costly.
  • The most appropriate physical activity messages and ways to communicate those messages may differ depending upon the target population.  Campaigns and promotions may be intended for an entire community or they can be tailored to meet the needs or interests of a particular group. For example, the message may be geared towards children and presented in a cartoon format.  Alternately, messages may be conveyed in different languages and address culture norms in different communities (e.g., Spanish, Vietnamese). 
  • Messages are often most effective if they are geared toward specific changes in knowledge, attitudes or beliefs about physical activity. For example, it may be more helpful to let people know that getting 10 minutes of activity three times a day can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases than to simply say that physical activity improves health.
  • Campaigns and promotions can provide a direct message about physical activity (e.g., the association between physical activity and obesity) or they can provide an indirect message about changes in behavior, environments or policies that lead to increases in physical activity. For example, a campaign or promotion could be used to advertise a new walking trail or to support funds for new recreational facilities at a local school.
  • Previous work also suggests the importance of framing messages positively rather than negatively (i.e., highlighting the benefits of physical activity rather than the consequences of inactivity). In addition, promotional items may be used to promote awareness of (i.e., branding) the intervention or enhance ability of individuals to engage in desired behavior(s).

expandWith whom should I work to create the best message for my physical activity intervention?

collapseWith whom should I work to create the best message for my physical activity intervention?

  • To develop your campaign or promotion or to determine the most appropriate messages and ways to communicate those messages, it is often helpful to work with different community partners.  Examples of potential partners include:
    • parks and recreation centers
    • senior center/independent living facilities
    • WIC clinic sites
    • coalitions
    • schools
    • worksites
    • health departments
    • civic organizations/ community organizations (Head Start, Girl Scouts, YMCA, youth, environment)
    • neighborhoods
    • metropolitan centers
    • rural areas
    • media personnel (e.g., newspaper, billboards)
    • advertising agencies
    • researchers
    • celebrities
    • professional models
    • county officials/community leaders
    • government agencies
    • community members
    • television and radio personnel

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