Children’s Understandings of Mediated Health Campaigns for Childhood Obesity

28 June 2012

Purpose: The present study investigated children’s understandings of the intent and importance of current media initiatives designed to target childhood obesity. Semi structured interviews were analysed using qualitative content analysis, for the responses of overweight and normal weight children. Methodology: Thirty-three children were interviewed, 24 of normal weight and 9 overweight. They were shown 2 print and 4 television advertisements from the New South Wales Health Department website that were popularly broadcast between 2003-2007. Children were then asked if they had seen the advertisement prior to the interview, and their understanding of the intent and importance of the advertisements. Findings: Most children in both weight groups recalled seeing 5 out of the 6 presented advertisements prior to interview. The main themes identified were ‘Health Maintenance’ and ‘Illness Prevention’ for 5 of the 6 advertisements. Overweight children were more numerous in their detection of a health message as opposed to normal weight children who mostly commented on the safety aspect of advertisement 6. Practical implications: Future evaluations of mediated health campaigns should go beyond recording simple recall of campaign material and investigate instead the understandings of target groups. Mediated health campaigns should also specify messages to particular target groups, as they appear to be most likely to facilitate behaviour change. Originality/value: Mediated health campaigns are mostly evaluated quantitatively rather than by qualitative means. In addition, no study has evaluated the views of overweight and normal weight children with regards to these health campaigns.