Introduction: Engaging in moderate physical activity for 30 minutes five or more times per week substantially reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, and walking is an easy and accessible way to achieve this goal. A theory-based mass media campaign promoted walking and local community-sponsored wellness initiatives through four types of media (billboard, newspaper, radio, and poster advertisements) in St Joseph, Mo, over 5 months during the summer of 2003.
Methods: The Walk Missouri campaign was conducted in four phases: 1) formative research, 2) program design and pretesting, 3) implementation, and 4) impact assessment. Using a postcampaign-only, cross-sectional design, a telephone survey (N = 297) was conducted in St Joseph to assess campaign impact. Study outcomes were pro-walking beliefs and behaviors.
Results: One in three survey respondents reported seeing or hearing campaign messages on one or more types of media. Reported exposure to the campaign was significantly associated with two of four pro-walking belief scales (social and pleasure benefits) and with one of three community-sponsored activities (participation in a community-sponsored walk) controlling for demographic, health status, and environmental factors. Exposure was also significantly associated with one of three general walking behaviors (number of days per week walking) when controlling for age and health status but not when beliefs were introduced into the model, consistent with an a priori theoretical mechanism: the mediating effect of pro-walking beliefs on the exposure-walking association.
Conclusion: These results suggest that a media campaign can enhance the success of community-based efforts to promote pro-walking beliefs and behaviors.