Preconsultation education promoting breast cancer screening: does the choice of media make a difference?
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BACKGROUND: Multimedia technology can be a valuable resource for health promotion and patient education initiatives because it allows messages to be presented within an environment that is both sensory-rich and interactive (i.e., the user can explore the information according to his or her particular needs and interests). Using clinic waiting time as an opportunity for breast cancer education, this investigation examined whether an educational intervention promoting breast cancer screening would be more effective when using interactive multimedia than when using written materials. METHODS: Over a five-month period, 108 women (40-70 years of age) from two clinics (a family practice clinic and a free clinic for the poor) participated in the study. Participants initially completed measures assessing perceptions of the personal importance of breast cancer, knowledge, and anxiety about screening procedures. They then were randomly assigned to receive breast cancer education by using an interactive multimedia program or by reading a brochure. Following the intervention, the participants once again completed the perceived importance, knowledge, and anxiety measures, and evaluated the educational materials. RESULTS: These women perceived breast cancer to be a more personally important health issue, learned more, and reported less anxiety about cancer screening following the intervention regardless of method. Younger women learned more from the educational materials than did older women. Although the multimedia program received more favorable evaluations than the brochure, this effect was mediated by the message recipient's age, as younger women responded more favorably to the multimedia materials than did older women. CONCLUSION: Preconsultation education is a valuable but rarely used opportunity to promote breast cancer screening. If well constructed, educational materials using a variety of media can be effective. While preferences for media may in part depend on the audience's age, considerably more research is needed to better understand how the interplay of media, message, and audience characteristics can help accomplish health-promotion objectives.