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Study Finds Mass Media Campaigns Alone Can Effectively Reduce High-Risk Sexual Behavior Among Impulsive, Sensation-Seeking Young Adults
Date:4/3/2008

LEXINGTON, Ky., April 3, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Targeted mass media campaigns alone can be effective in convincing high sensation-seeking, impulsive decision-making young adults to adopt safer sex practices, according to a study conducted by the Department of Communication at the University of Kentucky with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Past public health campaigns, particularly those promoting healthy behaviors, were rarely successful unless coupled with other interventions. But this study indicates that mass media campaigns can be successful alone, at least in the short-term, as long as well-documented principles -- such as formative research on the target audience and audience segmentation -- are followed.

"This study's findings suggest what we have long suspected and that other smaller studies have found -- that mass media campaigns crafted from sophisticated design principles can be effective in changing health behaviors, at least in the short-term, and that a reoccurring campaign presence may be necessary to sustain these safe behaviors," said Rick Zimmerman, Ph.D., lead researcher of the study and a Center Director in Louisville, KY for the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Philip Palmgreen, Ph.D., Professor of Communication at the University of Kentucky, was the co-principal investigator on the study.

"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."

The 21-month-long study assessed the impact of a televised public service announcement (PSA) campaign on changing safer sex beliefs and behaviors. Specifically, the study found 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
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SOURCE Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
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