A Su Salud, part of a larger program called Programa A Su Salud (To Your Health), sought to study and demonstrate the effectiveness of mass media health messages using culturally relevant role models from the local community. Attention to media messages and imitation of role models of positive behavior, such as quitting smoking, were reinforced with printed materials distributed by community volunteers. Randomly selected community members also were offered one-on-one counseling to deal with specific health risks. The Eagle Pass A Su Salud program was organized as a supporting unit for local public health services, which did not have staff for significant efforts beyond their primary mandates to serve clients with clinic-based services. The Texas Department of Health provided an authorizing and administrative oversight, viewing the program as an opportunity to test new approaches to community outreach and as a way to help deliver needed education to the study community.
Texas Department of Health
Eagle Pass, Texas, and surrounding areas
A broad program of community health promotion was implemented in Eagle Pass, including an intensive media campaign featuring role models of positive behavior, recruitment of more than 100 volunteers to promote role-model imitation, and community organization to stimulate policy changes that could influence health behavior (i.e., a city ordinance to restrict smoking). The long-term, partly randomized study assessed effects on behavior through survey instruments and, in the case of smoking cessation, biochemical validation of self-reports. Results showed that, in the community exposed to the mass media and peer network, an 18-percent smoking cessation (one year without smoking) rate was seen, compared to 7.5 percent in a control community with no organized campaign. Surprisingly, the group that had received the media, peer network and personal counseling campaign had a 16 percent quit rate – 2 percentage points lower than those exposed to mass media and interpersonal communications alone. The results from these case studies illustrate the kind of results that can be obtained by applying combined media and interpersonal communications, and that the necessary behavioral journalism and community networking skills require relatively little training. It also shows that much can be done to improve Hispanic/Latino health by implementing health promotion and disease prevention interventions by applying combined media and interpersonal communications using a theory-based model of change.