Designing effective health education materials: experimental pre-testing of a theory-based brochure to increase knowledge

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Abstract

The aim of this study is to demonstrate the usefulness of developing health education materials with a theoretical and empirical research basis. With a specific focus on increasing knowledge, the authors utilized well-researched principles in cognitive psychology to increase the message comprehension of an existing health education brochure. The brochure used was produced by a Dutch national campaign office for preventing alcohol abuse among undergraduate students. In two experimental studies, the original version of the brochure was compared with the theory-based modified version on measures of knowledge and psychosocial determinants of alcohol use among undergraduate university students. The results show significant differences in knowledge uptake between the two versions. In both experiments, the modified version elicited higher scores on knowledge uptake than the original version. These findings underscore the importance of theory in the design of health education brochures. Despite these positive findings, no differences in more proximal psychosocial determinants of behavior could be found. As a result, the authors conclude that principles in cognitive psychology should be complemented by determinant-specific theory-driven change methods if behavior change is to occur.

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