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Speaking of Health: Assessing Health Communication Strategies for Diverse Populations
begin with one of these audiences. For example, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign (1998) chose to focus on prevention of trial use of drugs among prior nonusers, and prevention of regular use of drugs among prior occasional users. It did not address current regular users, suspecting that this audience might not be responsive to its efforts.
Thus, the audience can be broken down by current behavior and the behavioral objective that campaign planners might seek for each group. However, within each of these behavioral subgroups, there is still more heterogeneity. Assume the antitobacco campaign chose to focus efforts on the intrigued nonsmokers. Some of those intrigued nonsmokers are young teenagers and some are older teenagers; some are girls and some are boys; some are surrounded by peers who smoke and others may have few friends who smoke. Some report frequent contact with prosmoking promotion by the tobacco industry that puts them at risk (Pierce and Giplin, 1995), while others do not have such frequent contact. Some may view smoking as a desirable personal symbol of rebellion against authority, while others may be more influenced by knowledge of the negative effects of smoking on athletic endurance. A single message (e.g., smoking harms your health) might affect all of these portions of the audience similarly, but much experience in undertaking these campaigns suggests otherwise. Rather, many campaigns assume that if there is heterogeneity in the causes of audience behaviors and in what influences behavior change, then there is a need for heterogeneity in message strategies as well.
Populations are heterogeneous in their behavior, and in the correlates and causes of their behavior, but they are also heterogeneous in the ways they can be reached. Some youth are devotees of MTV or hip-hop music radio stations, while others watch widely popular sitcoms or dramas, and some can be found in the audience of the teen-focused WB network. Others are regular viewers of religious television broadcasts, while still others are religiously watching rebroadcasts of the Simpsons after school. Some can be reached in school settings, while others have dropped out; some