The media played a central role in changing the use of aspirin among children with viral illness following reports of its association with a rare but deadly disease, Reye's syndrome (RS). It did so by alerting health professionals and parents about ways to prevent RS in children. Indeed, by the time aspirin product labeling was required by the FDA in 1986, most of the decline in RS incidence had already occurred. In the past, media-only health education campaigns have been relatively unsuccessful in achieving long-term changes in complex health behaviors. This article supports the theory that media warnings about the hazards of common products may successfully change consumer behaviors when the illness is devastating, the behavioral message is simple, acceptable and inexpensive alternatives are available, and the campaign is comprehensive, involving multiple professional groups to reinforce direct appeals to consumers.
Effects of professional and media warnings about the association between aspirin use in children and Reye's syndrome.