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J Health Commun. 2012;17(10):1187-203. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2012.665422. Epub 2012 Jul 9.

Colorectal cancer screening and physical activity promotion among obese women: an online evaluation of targeted messages.

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  • 1The Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516, USA.


Obese women are at higher risk for several cancers, but are less likely than normal weight women to engage in cancer prevention behaviors such as screening and physical activity. Targeted health messages may help increase healthy behaviors among vulnerable groups such as obese women. Using findings from focus groups with obese women, the authors created targeted messages to promote colorectal cancer screening and physical activity among obese women. The messages addressed psychosocial constructs, such as benefits and barriers to colorectal cancer screening and exercise, which were relevant to the target population. Messages were tested online with women age 50 years and older (N = 181). Participants were stratified by weight (obese vs. nonobese) and randomized to review either 10 targeted (intervention) or 10 generic (control) messages. Study outcomes included elaboration about the messages, message relevance and trustworthiness, and behavioral intentions. The authors used moderation and subgroup analyses to determine whether the intervention messages were better received by certain women. They found no differences in elaboration, behavioral intentions, relevance, or trustworthiness between intervention and control for either weight group. However, exercise intentions increased more (p = .06) among inactive obese women who received intervention messages (+2.9) compared with those who were in the control group (+1.2). Intervention messages also produced more elaboration among women who viewed their weight as a barrier to screening or exercise. Tailoring intervention messages for obese women on the basis of behavior and barriers may improve outcomes more than giving the same messages to all obese women.

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