ParticipACTION: awareness of the participACTION campaign among Canadian adults--examining the knowledge gap hypothesis and a hierarchy-of-effects model

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2009 Dec 9;6:85. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-6-85.


Background: ParticipACTION was a pervasive communication campaign that promoted physical activity in the Canadian population for three decades. According to McGuire's hierarchy-of-effects model (HOEM), this campaign should influence physical activity through intermediate mediators such as beliefs and intention. Also, when such media campaigns occur, knowledge gaps often develop within the population about the messages being conveyed. The purposes of this study were to (a) determine the current awareness of ParticipACTION campaigns among Canadians; (b) confirm if awareness of the ParticipACTION initiative varied as a function of levels of education and household income; and, (c) to examine whether awareness of ParticipACTION was associated with physical activity related beliefs, intentions, and leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) as suggested by the HOEM. Specifically, we tested a model including awareness of ParticipACTION (unprompted, prompted), outcome expectations, self-efficacy, intention, and physical activity status.

Methods: A population-based survey was conducted on 4,650 Canadians over a period of 6 months from August, 2007 to February, 2008 (response rate = 49%). The survey consisted of a set of additional questions on the 2007 Physical Activity Monitor (PAM). Our module on the PAM included questions related to awareness and knowledge of ParticipACTION. Weighted logistic models were constructed to test the knowledge gap hypotheses and to examine whether awareness was associated with physical activity related beliefs (i.e., outcome expectations, self-efficacy), intention, and LTPA. All analyses included those respondents who were 20 years of age and older in 2007/2008 (N = 4424).

Results: Approximately 8% of Canadians were still aware of ParticipACTION unprompted and 82% were aware when prompted. Both education and income were significant correlates of awareness among Canadians. The odds of people being aware of ParticipACTION were greater if they were more educated and reported higher income. Awareness of ParticipACTION was also associated with outcome expectations, self-efficacy, intention, and LTPA status.

Conclusion: Awareness of ParticipACTION is associated with LTPA. Knowledge gaps in awareness are associated with level of education and household income. Thus, future promotion campaigns should include specific strategies to target different segments of the population, especially people who are living in deprived conditions with lower levels of education.