Effects of a media campaign on back beliefs is sustained 3 years after its cessation

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2005 Jun 1;30(11):1323-30. doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000164121.77862.4b.


Study design: Quasi-experimental, nonrandomized, nonequivalent, parallel group-controlled study involving before and after telephone surveys of the general population.

Objective: To measure the magnitude of any sustained change in population beliefs about back pain 3 years after cessation of a population-based intervention designed to alter beliefs about back pain.

Summary of background data: A media campaign, which ran between September 1997 and December 1999 in Victoria, Australia, provided simple evidence-based advice about back pain. Following the campaign, there were significant improvements in both community and physicians' beliefs about back pain, as well as a decline in number of workers' compensation back claims.

Methods: The campaign's impact on population beliefs about back pain and fear-avoidance beliefs was measured using telephone surveys. Demographically identical population groups in Victoria and the adjacent control state, New South Wales, were surveyed at 4 times: before, during, immediately after, and 3 years after the media campaign in Victoria (surveys 1-4, respectively). Back beliefs were measured using the Back Beliefs Questionnaire (BBQ) (possible score 9-45, for which a higher score indicates a more positive belief about low back trouble). Fear-avoidance beliefs were measured using the Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire consisting of 2 subscales for physical activity and work activity (possible scores 0-24 and 0-36, respectively), for which a lower score indicates fewer fear-avoidance beliefs.

Results: A total of 6230 individuals in the general population completed the surveys. Large statistically significant improvements in population beliefs about back pain were still observed in Victoria 3 years after cessation of the campaign (mean scores on the BBQ were 26.5, 28.4, 29.7, and 28.8 for surveys 1-4, respectively). No changes were observed in New South Wales (mean scores on the BBQ were 26.3, 26.2, 26.3, and 26.1 for surveys 1-4, respectively). Of those individuals who reported back pain during the previous year, fear-avoidance beliefs about physical activity in Victoria were also significantly better than at baseline (mean scores on the Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire for physical activity were 14.0, 12.5, 11.6, and 12.3 for surveys 1-4, respectively).

Conclusions: Significant sustained improvements in population beliefs about back pain were observed 3 years after cessation of a media campaign of provision of positive messages about back pain. This result provides further evidence that a primary preventive strategy of altering population beliefs about back pain may be a highly effective way for reducing back-related disability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Communications Media*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / psychology*
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pamphlets
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Persuasive Communication*
  • Time Factors
  • Victoria