It is important for the government to raise awareness of health related issues, for example maintaining a balanced diet, and the risk of smoking etc. Research suggests that television advertising can be particularly useful for this. French (2004) found that there are certain scenarios in which television advertising is particularly useful.
1) When you want wide exposure – television reaches millions of people in the UK every day
2) When you have little time – television means you can reach a lot of people within a small time frame
3) When the goal of the campaign is simple – it is easier to encourage behaviour change about simple things, such as immunisation than it is with things like quitting smoking or changing your diet
The Health Development Agency found that a number of positive behavioural changes could be attributed to television health campaigns. These include: people knowledge of units in alcoholic drinks, people’s awareness of HIV/AIDS and the importance of wearing sunscreen.
However, it’s not only adverts that can influence people’s perceptions about health; fictional dramas can also inform and persuade people. Hawton et al found that people who watched Casualty could often relay important information about health that was shown on the programme. This shows that normal television can be used very effectively to persuade people and cause a behaviour change in regards to health.
Philo (1999) found that people saw medically based programmes such as Casualty used the programme as a source of useful information, and because it is presented in an entertaining way people are more likely to remember it.