purpose of this study was to examine the use of fear appeal messages in military
radio-based health promotion campaigns. Specifically, this paper reports the findings of a content
analysis of a convenience sample of PSAs in terms of the severity,
susceptibility, efficacy, and self-efficacy themes in the fear messages.
radio spots are not the only channel for communicating messages about health and
safety to servicemembers, while overseas it may be the most efficient.
AFRTS radio spots are aired to an audience stationed abroad, and often
the AFRTS broadcast is one of the few – if not the only – English language
broadcasts available. Therefore, by
default, DoD has a captured audience and a direct channel to those who the
messages are targeted toward.
research shows that the use of fear appeals in PSAs sometimes alienates the
audience and pushes it away from the intended action (Janis,
1953). Using the EPPM helps
identify the steps that will help avoid this.
Strict DoD budget constraints demand efficiency and effectiveness in PSA
construction. Therefore, the
authors analyzed the available health and safety-related spots to determine
whether empirically supported methods were employed when constructing the
messages. In general, these
theoretical constructs appear to be guiding the majority of the military PSA
designers. Results of this study
indicate that the majority of the key variables (severity, susceptibility,
response efficacy, and self-efficacy) are being included in the design of
military health messages. However,
the results also indicate that only 62.1 percent of the messages are employing
all of the above, as the model (Witte, 1992) suggests is
most effective. 62.1 percent is
satisfactory, but there is room for improvement if these spots are going to
successfully change attitudes and behaviors.
addition, this study does not allow one to conclude that these messages that
employed all of the suggested elements are necessarily effective.
Further research is necessary in this area to better understand the
impact of the messages. The next step in this line of research may be to better
understand the military audience, so that PSAs can be tailored to the audience's
specific tastes. It might also be
valuable to test messages before going worldwide with campaigns. The process of message development needs to be studied in
regard to target audiences, campaign objectives, and message appeals.
Further studies may find that different levels of severity,
susceptibility, response efficacy, and self-efficacy may be needed to most
successfully persuade the military audience.
The findings of this study are important when one considers the huge cost of
military health care and an increased reliance on preventive medicine.
By better understanding how fear appeals work and how health and safety
PSAs can be made better, the Defense Department should be able to develop a
safer, healthier servicemember, bringing long-term medical costs down, and
plotting the course for healthier living for its members.