Mass Media Messaging to Improve Population Health

The largest drivers of disease in populations are unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and use of alcohol and other drugs. These behaviors are difficult but not impossible to change, and if they are changed, the health benefits to populations are large. Hospitals cannot easily reach large populations to address these problems directly at the point of care, but can reach these populations cost-effectively with messages in the mass media.

Dr. Farley will explain how messages in the mass media can improve population health, showing evidence of both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. He will then present a case study of how two hospital systems pooled their community benefit funding to support a mass media campaign to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes in Appalachia. Tony Keck will discuss the campaign from the perspective of one of the two hospital systems.

Learning objectives:

  • List the health-related behaviors that have the greatest impact on population health
  • Describe the strength of evidence that messages in the mass media can change health-related behavior in populations
  • Outline the steps to developing and implementing a mass media campaign to promote healthy behavior


  • Thomas Farley, MD, MPH, former commissioner of health for New York City and current chief executive officer for The Public Good Projects
  • Tony Keck, senior vice president and chief development officer of Mountain States Health Alliance