Mass media campaigns can alter beliefs about back pain

June 21, 2001

Population based intervention to change back pain beliefs and disability: three part evaluation

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New research in this week's BMJ finds that mass media campaigns can alter people's beliefs about back pain, improve knowledge and attitudes among doctors and reduce compensation claims for back problems.

Researchers in Victoria, Australia measured the effectiveness of a state-wide public health campaign designed to alter beliefs about back pain. The campaign comprised television commercials, radio and print advertisements, outdoor billboards, posters, seminars, workplace visits, and publicity articles. The Back Book, an educational booklet for patients, was also made widely available and all doctors in Victoria received guidelines for the management of employees with low back pain who were eligible for compensation.

The team conducted before and after telephone surveys among 4,730 members of the general population and postal surveys of 2,556 general practitioners, with an adjacent state (New South Wales) as control.

In Victoria, beliefs about back pain became more positive between successive surveys. Knowledge and attitudes towards treating back pain also improved among doctors. There was a clear decline in number of claims for back pain, rates of days compensated, and medical payments for claims for back pain over the duration of the campaign.

These findings clearly demonstrate the value of promoting positive messages about back pain to the general population, say the authors. Further research should measure whether the effect of the campaign is sustained over time. These findings should also encourage others to adapt the campaign for use and evaluation in other settings, they conclude.
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Contact:

Rachelle Buchbinder, Associate Professor and Director, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Cabrini Hospital, Victoria, Australia

Mobile: (author in Edinburgh, Scotland until 22 June) 44-418-105-043
Email: rachelle.buchbinder@med.monash.edu.au

BMJ
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