Mass media campaigns addressing physical activity, nutrition and obesity in Australia 1996–2015: an updated narrative review
What is best practice for mass media campaigns addressing physical activity, nutrition and healthy weight in Australia?
History of smoking and obesity campaigns
- The use of mass media campaigns to address risk factors for chronic disease prevention has had a chequered history in the past three decades in Australia. There were initial successes with mass media anti-tobacco campaigns, starting with the first Quit Campaign in NSW in 1983.
- Further development of mass media campaigns and associated activities in Australia led to major reductions in smoking rates, including in adolescent smoking.
- The rise of obesity in the 1990s, and global increase in non-communicable diseases (especially diabetes and cardiovascular disease) led to substantial interest in using mass media campaigns in new areas, through the communication of health messages about healthy diet, physical activity and obesity prevention.
- Mass media campaigns in these domains have occurred in many countries, but detailed informative evidence on their implementation and effects is reported infrequently. This patchwork of evidence on campaigns for physical activity, diet and obesity prevention led to this review.
The review considered 17 mass media health campaigns conducted in Australia from 1996 to 2015, the evidence related to their effects, and the way in which they were coordinated and implemented as part of the overall prevention system in Australia.
Nine key recommendations for health promotion mass media campaigns
- Campaigns should be part of an integrated, system-wide approach to prevention
- Campaigns and main messages should be consistent nationally
- Underpinning theory/logic models need to be made explicit and applied
- Clear, measurable campaign goals and objectives should be specified
- Linkages to broader strategies (beyond communication) should be further developed
- Campaign duration and investment should reach a defined impact threshold
- A campaign planning and evaluation protocol could contribute to better practice
- Campaign evaluations should be made publicly available
- Sustained campaign efforts over several years are required to achieve population impact