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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 2002 (3 studies, search period 1980-2000) combined with more recent evidence (13 studies, search period 2000-2009). This finding updates and replaces the 2001 CPSTF finding on Mass Media Campaigns pdf icon [PDF – 231 KB].

Summary of Results

Sixteen studies qualified for the review. Study duration ranged from 1 week to 4 years.

  • Proportion of people who reported being physically active (as defined within each study):
    • Median absolute increase of 3.4 percentage points (Interquartile interval [IQI]: -0.6 to 5.7 percentage points; 10 studies)
    • Median relative increase of 6.7% (IQI: -1.6% to 14.1%; 10 studies)
  • In three studies, people reported spending more time engaging in physical activity: median relative increase of 4.4% (range of 3.1% to 18.2%).
  • Three additional studies found people reported being more active as a result of a campaign, though increases were modest.

Summary of Economic Evidence

While no studies were identified that evaluated the cost-effectiveness of mass media interventions, several studies reported costs of mass media campaigns, which ranged from $191,000 for a 1-year campaign to $339 million for a 4-year campaign.


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

Evidence Gaps

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

  • Future studies should use standard measures to document campaign dose, intensity, duration, and reach, as these variables influence message awareness and can affect other distal outcomes.
  • Data for proximal outcomes other than awareness listed in the analytic framework were reported rarely. Six studies provided information about knowledge, intentions, or attitudes and beliefs related to physical activity.
  • Studies should also measure proximal outcomes of mass media campaigns (e.g., knowledge, intentions, or attitudes and beliefs) to better determine success or failure of interventions.
  • Future research, at a minimum, should use valid and reliable self-report measures, but ideally, more objective measures of physical activity if feasible and appropriate for the research questions being asked.
  • More research is needed on the harms and benefits associated with physical activity interventions (mass media as well as other types of interventions) to evaluate their safety, and also to evaluate cost effectiveness that includes benefits gained and adverse events encountered.
  • Future research should evaluate the relationship between campaign dose and costs per media channel by outcomes among the target audience(s).
  • More research is needed to understand what specific dose and channels of a media campaign (e.g., Internet, billboards) are most effective for specific target audiences.
  • Audience segmentation and tailoring should be considered when planning multicomponent mass media campaigns and evaluated to advance knowledge in this field.

Study Characteristics

  • The studies included three controlled trials, fıve cohort studies, fıve cross-sectional studies, and three single-group studies using before–after designs.
  • Three studies summarized results from the longitudinal, national mass media campaign, brand-named VERB (www.cdc.gov/youthcampaign/), conducted from 2002 to 2006 to increase physical activity among “tweens,” who were aged 9 –13 years at baseline.