Study design: Quasi-experimental before-and-after design with control group.
Objective: We evaluated a back pain mass media campaign's impact on population back pain beliefs, work disability, and health utilization outcomes.
Summary of background data: Building on previous campaigns in Australia and Scotland, a back pain mass media campaign (Don't Take it Lying Down) was implemented in Alberta, Canada. A variety of media formats were used with radio ads predominating because of budget constraints.
Methods: Changes in back pain beliefs were studied using telephone surveys of random samples from intervention and control provinces before campaign onset and afterward. The Back Beliefs Questionnaire (BBQ) was used along with specific questions about the importance of staying active. For evaluating behaviors, we extracted data from governmental and workers' compensation databases between January 1999 and July 2008. Outcomes included indicators of number of visits to health care providers, use of diagnostic imaging, and compensation claim incidence and duration. Analysis included time series analysis and ANOVA testing of the interaction between province and time.
Results: Belief surveys were conducted with a total of 8566 subjects over the 4-year period. Changes on BBQ scores were not statistically significant, however, the proportion of subjects agreeing with the statement, "If you have back pain you should try to stay active" increased in Alberta from 56% to 63% (P = 0.008) with no change in the control group (consistently approximately 60%). No meaningful or statistically significant effects were seen on the behavioral outcomes.
Conclusion: A Canadian media campaign appears to have had a small impact on public beliefs specifically related to campaign messaging to stay active, but no impact was observed on health utilization or work disability outcomes. Results are likely because of the modest level of awareness achieved by the campaign and future campaigns will likely require more extensive media coverage.