Despite the availability of a range of Australian self-management support programs targeting the individual patient and/or health professional, three-quarters of Australians have at least one long-term medical condition, suggesting that a more comprehensive public health approach is needed. Use of mass media to deliver community health messages is a well established public health strategy. It may enhance more targeted approaches with its ability to reach large numbers of people simultaneously, including those difficult to identify, high-risk groups and those difficult to reach through traditional medical delivery. By simultaneously influencing large numbers of people, well designed health messages have the potential to promote and maintain behavioural change over time. Back Pain: Don't Take It Lying Down (1997-1999), a mass media campaign of the Victorian WorkCover Authority, can be seen as a prototype of a successful public health strategy designed to enhance people's self-management abilities. One of the main messages of the campaign was that there is a lot you can do to help yourself, which emphasises shifting the responsibility of control onto the individual. The success of the campaign makes a compelling evidence-based case for using a similar strategy to enhance the self-management abilities of the population.