Two researchers from University of Kentucky department of communication have found that targeted mass media campaigns can effectively convince young adults to adopt safer sex practices.
The study conducted by UK professor Rick Zimmerman, a centre director in Louisville, Ky. for the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) and Philip Palmgreen, professor of communication at UK revealed that mass media campaigns can be successful in changing the health behaviours of the young adults.
"This study's findings suggest what we have long suspected and what other smaller studies have found: that mass media campaigns crafted from sophisticated design principles can be effective in changing health behaviours, at least in the short-term, and that a reoccurring campaign presence may be necessary to sustain these safe behaviours," said Zimmerman, lead researcher.
"The implications from this study are valuable for the public health community because it shows that when used properly, media alone can have significant, positive impacts on health-related attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors," said Palmgreen.
The researchers examined the impact of a televised public service announcement (PSA) campaign on changing safer sex beliefs and behaviours.
The findings revealed that the campaign effectively increased condom use among high-risk young adults, on average, by 13 percent. Similar effects were found on intentions to use condoms in the future and in perceived ability to use condoms
The analysis also suggested that the campaign might have resulted in 181,224 fewer occasions of unprotected sex among the targeted population than would have normally occurred without exposure to the PSAs.
The researchers also compared the effects of the campaign aired on television over a three-month period targeting high sensation-seeking, impulsive decision-making young adults in Lexington, Ky.
"High sensation-seekers and impulsive decision-makers were surveyed for the study because of their proclivity for engaging in risky behaviours. The characteristics of high-sensation-value messages provide practitioners with useful guidelines for developing effective and persuasive health-related messages and placing them in appropriate channels," said Zimmerman.
The study was funded from the National Institute of Mental Health.