Healthy lifestyle campaign wasted millions
University of Sydney Research Fellow claims $6 million "Get Moving" campaign got nowhere
Dr Evan Atlantis, a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Health Sciences, along with researchers from the Faculty of Medicine’s School of Public Health and from Deakin University, conducted a study to gauge the effectiveness of the Federal Government's "Get Moving" campaign.
Results soon to be published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport suggest that the "Get Moving" television advertisement was not effective in influencing children's behaviour immediately after viewing. Has the $6 million healthy lifestyle advertising campaign aimed at children been a waste of public money?
In June 2006, towards the end of the "Get Moving" campaign, the research team conducted a study at a Sydney public school. Half the child participants viewed a 25 minute Simpsons episode embedded with three Get Moving advertisements, and the other half viewed the same episode without the Get Moving advertisements.
The participants were then shown pictures of children playing ball games, playing on a trampoline, riding a bike and riding a scooter, watching TV/DVD, surfing the internet, and playing video games, and were asked to indicate which of these choices they would prefer to do right now, and to rate how much they liked or disliked each of these choices. The children were then observed for 10 minutes after being told that they could spend some or all of this time on any of these choices, which were then made available to them.
The investigators found, when assessing the children immediately after exposure, that there were no trends to indicate any significant effects of the "Get Moving" advertisement on the children's preferences, ratings of liking, and time spent in physical activities or in sedentary behaviours.
Dr. Atlantis concludes that these results, as well as a lack of positive scientific evidence, suggest that such advertisements are unlikely to cause long-term healthy lifestyle changes, and so are a waste of money.
"TV advertisements for health promotion have the potential to reach large numbers of children given the amount of time they spend watching TV; however, more research is needed if such campaigns are to ever going to work. For example, what marketing content do children and adolescents respond to most? What is the minimum dose of exposure required? How do health promotion advertisements perform alongside so much coexisting marketing for unhealthy lifestyle choices? These are just several important questions that need to be addressed, to help develop effective mass media campaigns for causing even modest improvements in population levels of unhealthy lifestyle", he said.
Although Dr Atlantis acknowledges that spending $6 million AUD on a media campaign was a substantial government investment, he asserts much more is needed on an ongoing basis, given the rising economic burden and serious health implications of physical inactivity. "It makes sense to target physical activity levels in young Australians, because there is evidence showing that inactive children grow up to become inactive adults. However, the Australian government should first look at funding research to develop more effective mass media campaigns, to then justify funding such public health initiatives in the future.
"Government funding commitments for health promotion should be long-term, continuous, and proportionate to the economic burden of the disease or risk factor being targeted, and should be periodically evaluated for cost-effectiveness. The 'Get Moving' campaign met none of these important criteria," said Dr Atlantis.
Contact: Jake O'Shaughnessy
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