Methods of health promotion

Media campaigns - Cowpe

Legislation - Danneburg

Fear arousal - Janis and Feshbach

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Cowpe; Chip pan fire prevention 1976-1988

Aim: To demostrate that advertising can make a valuable contribution to reducing the number of chip pan fire accidents. 

Background: In the 1970s and early 1980s people commonly cooked chips at home in an open pan. These pans frequently caught fire. The two main causes were over filling, so they overlfowed when the chips went in and unattendance, where the fat reached a flashpoint and ignited. 

Sample: TV-viewers living in Yorkshire Granada, Central, Tyne Tees and London regions where the adverts were shown were contacted.

Method: A field experiement.

Procedure: A TV campaign was produced witht wo 60 second commercials entitled 'unattendance' and 'overfilling'. Both showed the initial cause of the fire and then the actions needed to put it out: 1) Turn off the heat; 2) Cover with a damp cloth; 3) Leave the pan to cool down. To increase the dramatic effect both slow motion and real-time filming was used.

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Cowpe; Chip pan fire prevention 1976-1988

Results: The overall results showed a net decline in fires of between 7% and 25% in twelve months with the greatest effect immediantly after the campaign. Advertising awareness and recall also improved across the areas studied, suggesting that fires were being prevented by greater awareness of the risk and where a fire did occur it was contained and did not require attendance of the fire brigade. 

Evaluation: This field experiement is high in ecological validity. People were at home so there were no demand characteristics. However, we do not know if the message was spread by the advertisments in every case because there is no control over who watched them. This could be considered as a situational explanation rather than a dispositional one. Once people knew what to do, they could act accordingly. The findings are useful because they show that if you want to change an unhealthy behaviour it is important to explain what to do rather than just what to avoid. Being informed gave the people power to act in a dangerous situation and saved lives.

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Danneburg; bicycle helmet laws and educational cam

Aim: To compare legislation against education to see which is more effective in increasing helmet use in child cyclists. 

Background: The passage of a mandatory bicycle helmet law for children in Howard County, Maryland, USA provided an opportunity to compare legislation and education as strategies to increase helmet use. Head injuries cause death in 70% to 80% of all cycling accidents.

Sample: Children in the fourth, seventh and ninth grades in 47 schools in Maryland were tested across three countries. Over 2000 children at each age were asked to take part.

Method: This was a natural experiment with data collected by survey.

Procedure: Three counties were tested. Howard County, which brough in the legislation, Montgomery County, which used extensive educational campaigns and Baltimore County, which acted as the control with no particular measures to increase helmet use. Four- or five-point Likert scales were used in the survey questions, which were completed by the children without help from their parents.

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Danneburg; bicycle helmet laws and educational cam

Results: The overall response rate was 48.4%. Bicycle ownership was 85% on average across all three counties. Bicycle helmet use increased from 11.4% to 37.5% in Howard County after the law came in. This compared with 8.4% to 12.6% in Montgomery County, which used educational campaigns. Both were higher than the conrol group from Baltimore County.

Evaluation: Natural experiments have high external validity and low demand characteristics so we could expect that the findings were realistic. Young children may not understand the questions or may choose to give socially desirable answers, suggesting they did use their helmets when they did not. What about the majority who did not respond? Could they have been very different? Free will vs. determinism - does society have the right to override our free choices? Situational vs. dispositional expanations - are some people natural risk takers whatever the situational variables? This research suggests that legislation may be more effective than educational campaigns and in some circumstances where lives are in danger it is justifiable to restrict personal freedom. An example is legislation on seat belts in the UK which dramatically reduced death and serious injury in car accidents.

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Janis and Feshbach; Effects of fear-arousing commu

Aim: To test the effects of fear arousal or anxiety by depicting potential danger to which the audience might be exposed.

Background: Implicit in the use of fear appeals is the assumption that when emotional tension is aroused, the audience will become highly motivated to listen. However, Janis and Feshbach believed that other types of defensive reactions to this fear might prevent the message from getting across.

Sample: 200 American high school students aged 14-16 divided into four groups at random. Three were experimental groups and one was the control.

Method: A lab experiement with an independant measures design.

Procedure: Three groups watched a 15 minute lecture delievered by the same speaker with the same content about the causes and prevention of tooth decay. Each lecture contained 20 slides which differed in the amount of fear they created. Immediately after the lecture, questionnaires were given out to test responses. The control group saw a lecture about the eye.

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Janis and Feshbach; Effects of fear-arousing commu

Results: The fear stimuli were effective with those in the high fear condition describing themselves as 'very worried. There was no differences between the three groups in knowledge about tooth decay. One week later they were tested for conformity to the message and this time the moderate and minimal arousal groups had increased tooth brushing by 44% and 50% while the strong fear group had only changed by 28%.

Evaluation: High levels of control gave the ability to manipulate the IV across four conditions. measurement of the DV by questionnaire hads possible problems of social desirability where respondents might wish to give what they perceive as the right answer. 'Is psychology a science' could be applied here because an apparently common sense idea has been repudiated through the use of the scientific method. This research could be seen to be ethnocentric because Americans are renowned for caring about theirmteeth so the fear message could have had a stronger impact here than elsewhere. Like Cowpe's research, this suggests that if you want to change behaviour you should inform people rather than frighten them.

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