Testing General Versus Specific Behavioral Focus in Messaging for the Promotion of Sun Protection Behaviors

Amy Bleakley, Amy B. Jordan, Andrew A. Strasser, Deann Lazovich, Karen Glanz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Recommendations for skin cancer prevention include behaviors such as using sunscreen, seeking shade, and wearing a shirt with sleeves, but the best way to persuasively communicate this information to the public is not clear. Purpose: To test whether a messaging strategy using videos that focus on one specific behavior at a time versus a more general or multibehavior sun protection message is effective at changing attitudinal beliefs and intention with regard to sun protection behaviors. Methods: Online experiment among non-Hispanic white 18-49 year old adults in the USA. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions, each one with health messages on a different sun protection prevention behavior: "using sunscreen" (Condition 1, n = 259), "seeking shade" (Condition 2, n = 245), or "covering up" (Condition 3, n = 289). Condition 4 (the control, n = 251) is a multibehavior message that equally promotes sunscreen, seeking shade, and covering up and features a general message on sun safety. Results: ANOVA and path analysis results suggest that messages which emphasize a single sun protection behavior compared with general sun safety messaging could potentially be a promising approach. The effectiveness of the videos in influencing attitudinal beliefs varied by behavior, with some gender and age moderation. There was an indirect effect on intention to use sunscreen. Conclusions: This study advances our understanding of strategies for skin cancer prevention campaigns. Specifically, it suggests that focusing on a single sun protection behavior with targeted beliefs may be valuable as a first step in encouraging sun safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-118
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 5 2019


  • Health behavior theory
  • Health communication
  • Messaging
  • Prevention
  • Skin cancer

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

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