Objective To measure the impact of a Kellogg/Northcott Society multimedia folate education campaign, run nationally from July 1998 to June 1999, with and without the use of health claims.
Method Three national telephone surveys of over 500 Australian women aged 18-44 in July and November 1998 and May 1999.
Results Awareness of the role of folate in the prevention of birth defects rose by 8% in the first 6 months of the campaign (without health claims) and by 15% in the second half (when health claims were incorporated). Awareness of the recommendation to take folate before pregnancy rose from 21% at baseline to 29% in November 1998 and 44% in May 1999. At the end of the campaign, the foods most commonly cited as sources of folate were leafy green vegetables (72%), breakfast cereals (70%), fruit (41%) and bread (40%).
Conclusion Inclusion of a specific health claim explaining the role of folate in preventing birth defects appeared to increase the impact of the folate education campaign.
Implications 1. Changing food regulations to permit health claims may increase the impact of health promotion campaigns involving industry partnerships. 2. Future folate programs should target young women (aged 18-24), those in rural areas and those on lower incomes.