The Effectiveness of Mass Communication to Change Public Behavior
Abroms, L. C., & Maibach, E. W. Annual Review of Public Health (2008), 29, pp. 219–234.
Mass media campaigns have traditionally targeted individual behaviors and evaluated campaign effectiveness by assessing whether people changed their behavior. Data suggest that while mass media can indeed influence behavior change, changes are usually modest. As evidence accumulates about the need for using structural approaches to modify risk behaviors, communication campaigns too must target more than just individual behaviors. The authors discuss the need for adopting an ecological approach to public health communication campaigns—that is, one that considers not only the individual, but the context within which the individual lives. Between this new approach and rapid changes in technology that have redefined what mass media is and how it reaches people, public health communication efforts must adjust accordingly. The authors recommend that in addition to targeting individuals, behavior change messages must target social networks and communities that influence the individuals whose behavior the campaigns want to change.