Promoting social support: An evaluation of California’s friends can be good medicine campaign.
Increasing recognition of the importance of social support for health has not been accompanied by commensurate increases in knowledge about how to strengthen natural support networks on a large scale. This study evaluated the impact of California's innovative "Friends Can Be Good Medicine" public education campaign in promoting social support. Campaign impact was assessed with pre-, post-, and long-term follow-up interviews with a panel sample of 340 adults in the six county Fresno media market area. Comparisons of exposed and unexposed individuals found that the campaign appeared to have measurable impact on knowledge, attitudes, behavioral intentions, and support enhancing behavior. Follow-up interviews indicated that these gains maintained themselves over the course of a year. The campaign was most effective when it utilized multiple channels of communication. In Fresno City, where there was the most intensive combination of community activities and media exposure, respondents indicating substantial likelihood of engaging in support enhancing behavior increased from 42% to 59% compared to smaller gains in areas which relied primarily on community implementation, and no gains in areas where exposure to the campaign was limited to mass media. The campaign appeared particularly effective with people who had experienced the death of someone close to them during the past year, and within that group, gains were largest among respondents below average in initial levels of social support.