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Stop Playing Games with Childhood Obesity, Part II: Communication Campaign Evaluation Results

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I Introduction

In October 2007, the "Stop Playing Games with Childhood Obesity" campaign was launched in the City of Hamilton. Campaign objectives and details about the campaign design were presented in Part I of this article, which ran in the OHPE-bulletin on July 18, 2008. Part II focuses on the evaluation of the campaign that included: a randomized telephone survey, an online survey for visitors to the campaign website, and web statistics tracking.

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II Randomized Telephone Survey

A marketing research consultant conducted a randomized telephone survey to determine awareness of the campaign. A total of 300 telephone interviews were completed with residents of the City of Hamilton. Participants of the survey were first screened to ensure that there were children in their household between 3 and 14 years of age. Respondents were asked about their awareness of the campaign and some general questions about obesity.

Overall campaign awareness

When asked whether they had seen any advertisements from Hamilton Partners for Healthy Weights within the past month (unaided awareness), 9.3% of respondents indicated they had seen an advertisement. Of these respondents, the largest majority (39.3%) saw it on a poster at a recreation centre.

Respondents were then asked whether they had seen an advertisement about childhood obesity with the tagline "Stop Playing Games with Childhood Obesity" (aided awareness). The unaided and aided awareness percentages were later combined to determine total awareness of the campaign ads. Overall, 34.0% of respondents indicated that they had seen at least one of the advertisements. When these respondents were asked where they had seen the posters, the highest total percentage reported a recreation centre (15%).

The local newspaper was the second-most mentioned source where respondents commonly saw the ads. Posters in doctor's offices and schools were mentioned less often. The lowest percentages reported were back-of-bus ads, weekly community newspapers, bus shelters, and pre-movie screenings.

Total advertising awareness increased with age, and females were more likely than males to have seen the campaign ads.

Recall of campaign details

The main aspects recalled about the advertisements were that they included information about:

  • obesity in children
  • participation/ being active/ exercise
  • kids drinking too much sugar
  • sitting at the TV/ games
  • kids eating fast food/ healthy eating

Of the respondents who saw at least one of the advertisements, 6.9% indicated that they recalled the actual name of the website, "" This was an important evaluation indicator because driving traffic to the website where visitors could download a self or family assessment tool was a key objective of the campaign.

Opinions about the campaign

Respondents were asked whether they strongly agreed, somewhat agreed, somewhat disagreed, or strongly disagreed with six statements. When percentages were combined for those who indicated that they "strongly agreed" or "somewhat agreed," the level of agreement with the statements was as follows (listed from most agreement to least):

  1. "I feel this ad helped to raise public awareness about childhood obesity."
  2. "The ad itself was eye-catching and informative."
  3. "It made me think about my own children's risk for obesity."
  4. "The ad increased my level of interest to visit the website."
  5. "The information in the ad motivated me to consider talking to others about this issue."
  6. "The issue of childhood obesity is relevant to me right now."

Many respondents felt the campaign was beneficial and should be continued.

Perception of own risk

Most respondents (93%) did not think they had a child with obesity issues. The majority (52.3%), however, indicated that they knew of another child who was at risk for being overweight. For one-third of these respondents, that child was a relative.

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III Online Survey

All of the campaign posters encourage parents to visit the campaign website,, to assess their child's risk for obesity. A consultant was hired to develop and implement an evaluation of the website, which included an online user survey and tracking of web statistics.

Links to the online survey were posted on the campaign website with an incentive to complete the survey. The main results of the website survey are outlined below.

Survey respondents

There were 128 respondents in total; however, 29 were removed from the sample because of invalid responses (e.g., numerous "I don't knows," "my teacher made me do it," etc.). This resulted in a total of 99 valid respondents.

Of the valid respondents, approximately half visited for professional reasons and half visited for personal reasons.

Where visitors heard about the site

Top responses where visitors learned about the website included

  1. Colleague (20.8%)
  2. Newspaper ad (20%)
  3. Child's school/teacher (14.6%)
  4. Postcard (12.5%)
  5. Another website (10.4%)

Why visitors came to the site

Top reasons for visiting the website included

  1. For professional reasons (36.7%)
  2. To find out more about my child/children's risk of being overweight (35.7%)
  3. To find out more about my own risk of being overweight (35.7%)
  4. To find out more about healthy habits for my family (21%)

When the responses of those who visited the website for professional reasons were removed from the analysis, this proportion shifted dramatically. Of people who visited primarily for personal reasons, over 70% visited to find out more about healthy habits for their family.

Site impact

Of all visitors, 46.8% said their knowledge about raising children with a healthy weight was high or very high before visiting the website and 74.1% reported the same after visiting the site. Thus, 26.3% of respondents felt the website increased their knowledge.

Over 50% of respondents claimed to learn "quite a bit" or "a great deal" about various weight, healthy eating and physical activity topics (a list of 22 topics was presented).

Survey respondents reported high levels of confidence in taking action on healthy habits and healthy weights upon leaving the site. Between 75-80% felt confident that they would be able to

  • Build more healthy habits in the future,
  • Help children build more healthy habits,
  • Reduce own risk of being overweight, or
  • Reduce children's risk of being overweight.

The qualitative comments about how visitors were planning on using the information from the site were informative, useful, and confirmed the utility of the site. Some examples of the comments include

  1. Initiate a poster campaign then a pop ban at our school.
  2. As a parent I am going to cook healthier, pack healthier lunches (no pop), be more active as family (like playing more with my children at the park), walking instead of driving our car for short distances, drinking water instead of pop.
  3. I intend to have the kids work with me to make a plan that is better for everyone. They need to feel a sense of ownership of the choices they make for their bodies.
  4. As my daughter is very overweight this will help with keeping us focused - printing the activity posters and food guide. It confirms that we have put many of the suggestions into place and we are doing everything we can to help lose the weight. We don't have a lot of screen time, but we don't have a lot of physical activity in our daily lives. There are some really great ideas at the various websites.
  5. Changing some of our family routines to include more active activities that we can do together as a family.
  6. Set better examples myself, like eating breakfast.
  7. I learned what a can of pop a day equals and how bad fast food really is. With this information I will now change those couple of things in my household.
  8. To discuss with my husband and make a family plan.
  9. To implement the info into what I buy for food, the level of activities for our family and how I can make a huge impact on changing myself as well as my family.
  10. To improve my family's physical activity and to encourage hobbies other than computer/television.
  11. We plan on dancing together as a family every evening.
  12. Making better choices for our lunches and including more physical activity in our day.
  13. Plan weekly meals so we know what we are eating in advance and that we are getting enough of the good foods we need.

In general

  • 92.2% of respondents said overall quality of website was "high" or "very high."
  • 84.1% said overall usefulness of website was "high" or "very high."

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IV Web Statistics

Between mid-October 2007 (campaign launch) and February 2008 (survey close), 4720 people visited Traffic was fairly consistent throughout this time period, averaging around 900 visitors per month. Most people visited the entry page, plus only one other page, during their time on the site. One hundred fourty-two people entered the site directly to the Healthy Habits quiz, indicating that once out in the public domain, people were promoting that sub-page of the website directly.

Users stayed, on average, for approximately 1.5 minutes per visit. This too was quite consistent throughout the five months, fluctuating only slightly each month.

The top sub pages (not including the index page) visited on the site were:

  1. The "Eat Together" poster (reads: "The average fast food meal supplies over 60% of a child's daily calorie needs."), with 3656 visits over five months, heavily concentrated in the first two months.
  2. The "Reality Check" poster (reads: "Only 9% of parents think their children are overweight; 25% are."), with 2929 visits over five months, heavily concentrated in the first month.
  3. The Healthy Habits quiz, with 433 visits over five months, heavily concentrated in the last month.

In considering these trends, it is important to note that survey respondents who reported that they visited the site for professional reasons were very heavily weighted in the first month of launching the campaign (i.e., representing 40 of the 43 survey responses that were received before December 1st). People visiting for personal reasons represented more of the respondents completing surveys after December 1st.
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V Next Steps

Based on evaluation results, future plans include

  • Running the ads again in the local newspaper.
  • Designing one or two more posters that will focus on the environmental impact on weight, while keeping the same branding.
  • Discontinuing use of certain vehicles such as, back-of-bus ads, bus shelters and pre-movie screenings, given the low level of awareness resulting from them in the first wave of promotion.
  • Adding more interactive pieces to the website, such as a physical activity tracker for kids and neighbourhood assessment tools.
  • Further development of the professional section of the website, since many people visited the website for this reason.
  • Enhancement of website promotion, as the telephone survey indicated there was a low level of awareness about the name of the website, though the site was reported to be very useful for those who visited.

Further details about the evaluation report and the "Stop Playing Games with Childhood Obesity" campaign can be accessed by contacting Sandy Skrzypczyk at