Media campaigns are used to achieve public health goals but few studies have documented whether the goals were met.
Two communities received community-wide efforts to increase the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) rate in defined pneumococcal disease–risk groups. One community also received a media campaign consisting of television and newspaper advertisements. A random-digit-dial telephone survey was conducted before and after the media campaign in both of the designated media markets. In addition to direct mailings to a sample of Medicare beneficiaries whose Medicare billing records did not indicate a PPV billing claim after 1991, community-wide campaigns consisting of table tents, brochures, flyers, and posters occurred in both markets. A 29-day television campaign and a 5-week newspaper campaign occurred in one of the markets.
We were unable to detect a significant effect of the media campaign on either PPV awareness or self-reported receipt of pneumococcal vaccine.
While it is important to evaluate community health intervention efforts, evaluations can be very difficult. Because of financial and other limitations, most feasible evaluation methods will not have the power to detect changes attributable to the intervention nor to provide confidence that there was no important change.