In 1989 the National Heart Foundation (NHF) of Australia's Heart Week campaign was directed towards encouraging those with symptoms of possible myocardial infarction (MI) to seek help as promptly as possible. To evaluate its effect, three surveys were conducted of patients admitted to 22 coronary care units (CCUs). Two (335 and 221 patients) preceded and one (253 patients) followed the public education campaign. During the third survey a subset of patients were asked why they delayed, how long they thought one should wait before seeking help, whether they were aware of the media campaign and whether this had influenced their behaviour. Overall, only 42% of 809 patients sought help within one hour (median delay 1.2 hours). The median time of arrival and the proportion of patients arriving within one, two and four hours was not altered after this campaign. Those who admitted to having been aware of the campaign sought help no more promptly. The Heart Week campaign could not be shown to have produced any clinically important change in patient delay. Future campaigns will need to be modified in the light of this experience.