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Physical Activity: Stand-Alone Mass Media Campaigns


What the CPSTF Found

About The Systematic Review

The CPSTF finding is based on evidence from a Community Guide systematic review published in 202 (3 three studies, search period 1980-2000) combined with more recent evidence (13 studies, search period 2000-2009).

The systematic review was conducted on behalf of the CPSTF by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to increasing physical activity. This finding updates and replaces the 2001 CPSTF finding on Mass Media Campaigns pdf icon [PDF - 231 KB].

Summary of Results

Detailed results from the systematic review are available in the CPSTF Finding and Rationale Statement pdf icon [PDF - 163 KB].

Sixteen studies were included in the systematic review. Study duration ranged from one week to four years.

  • Proportion of people who reported being physically active (as defined within each study):
    • Median increase of 3.4 percentage points (10 studies)
    • Median increase of 6.7% (10 studies)
  • In three studies, people reported spending a median of 4.4% more time engaged in physical activity
  • In three different studies, people reported being more active as a result of a campaign, though increases were modest.

Summary of Economic Evidence

Detailed results from the systematic review are available in the CPSTF Finding and Rationale Statement pdf icon [PDF - 163 KB].

No cost-effectiveness studies were found. Several studies, however, reported costs of mass media campaigns. Costs ranged from $191,000 for a one-year campaign to $339 million for a four-year campaign.


Applicability of this intervention across different settings and populations was not assessed because the CPSTF did not have enough information to determine if the intervention works.

Evidence Gaps

The CPSTF identified several areas that have limited information. Additional research and evaluation could help fill remaining gaps in the evidence base. (What are evidence gaps?)

  • Standard measures to document length of intervention, numbers of participants, and specifics of the intervention itself. These variables influence message awareness and can affect other related results.
  • Intermediate results other than awareness (e.g., knowledge, intentions, attitudes and beliefs)
  • Valid and reliable self-report measures, or ideally, more objective measures of physical activity
  • Harms, benefits, and potential safety issues of physical activity interventions, and cost-effectiveness, including benefits gained and type and amount of losses
  • The relationship between how often participants are exposed to the intervention and costs per media channel, segmented by results among target audiences
  • How often and by which methods a media campaign (e.g., Internet, billboards) is most effective for specific target audiences
  • Groups into which participants are divided (e.g., by age, geography) and how the intervention is tailored to participants’ needs and understanding
  • Reliable and valid measures for the spectrum of physical activity that includes moderate or light activity

Study Characteristics

  • The studies included controlled trials (three studies), cohort studies (5 studies), cross-sectional designs (5 studies), and single-group before–after designs (3 studies).
  • Three studies summarized results from CDC’s VERB External Web Site Icon campaign—a longitudinal, national mass media campaign conducted from 2002 to 2006 to increase physical activity among “tweens” aged 9 –13 years.