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Focus Group Recruiting in Health Communication Campaigns: Lessons from a Project on Risky Sexual Behavior
Unformatted Document Text:  Recruiting for Focus Groups in Health Communication Campaigns page 2 This paper will first introduce the Mass Media Project and will then briefly review focus group history and characteristics. The issues surrounding the design and implementation of a sampling plan for focus group research will then be explored by examining the experiences of the Mass Media Project. THE TARGETING MASS MEDIA CAMPAIGNS FOR HIV PREVENTION PROJECT The Mass Media Project is a four-year project to develop, implement and evaluate a televised, public service announcement (PSA) campaign that will encourage increased safer sexual behaviors in young adults in two cities. In the last 15 years, several studies of interventions have demonstrated a change in risky sexual behavior such as delaying sexual initiation and increased condom usage. Generally, these studies have been based on social cognitive theory and have created small group and interpersonal interventions at sites such as schools and clinics. The Mass Media Project combines two on-going research streams. The first is focused on HIV prevention and intervention. This research has already established that individuals with the personality traits of high sensation seeking and/or impulsive decision making are significantly more likely to participate in risky sexual behavior (Donohew et al., 2000; Ebreo, Feist-Price, Siewe & Zimmerman, 2002). Based on this finding school-based HIV-related classroom curriculum has been designed to appeal to high sensation seekers and impulsive decision-makers (Zimmerman, Donohew et al, in publication). The second stream of research is focused on developing mass media prevention campaigns for substance use and abuse targeting high sensation seekers since they are at higher risk to become substance users (Donohew, 1988; Donohew & Palmgreen, 1994; Donohew, Palmgreen, Lorch, Zimmerman, & Harrington, 2002; D’Silva, Harrington, Palmgreen, Donohew, & Lorch, 2001; Palmgreen et al., 1991;). Results from this research have shown that the mass media campaigns can influence change in drug use (Palmgreen, Donohew, Lorch, Hoyle & Stephenson, 2002; Stephenson & Palmgreen, 2001; Stephenson et al., 1999). This stream has also produced a strategy called sensation seeking targeting (SENTAR) which identifies components of successful messages that are high in sensation value and which capture the attention of high sensation seekers and encourage them to attend to the message (Donohew, Lorch & Palmgreen, 1991; Everett & Palmgreen, 1995; Lorch et al., 1994; Palmgreen, Lorch, Donohew, & Harrington, 1995; Palmgreen, Donohew, Lorch, Hoyle & Stephenson, 2001; Palmgreen, Stephenson, Everett, Baseheart & Francies, 2002; Stephenson et al., 2002). The Mass Media Project’s goal is to combine these two research traditions and develop tailored messages that will reach young adults who are at risk for contracting HIV. In the summer of 2001, the Mass Media Project began recruiting for the first of three waves of focus groups that would eventually include 276 subjects in 38 groups conducted over a 14-month period (Table 1). The data from these groups was used to help conceive and shape original scripts for five television PSAs that will be produced in the fall of 2002. The

Authors: Allard, Suzie., Palmgreen, Philip. and Zimmerman, Rick.
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Recruiting for Focus Groups in Health Communication Campaigns
page 2
This paper will first introduce the Mass Media Project and will then briefly review focus group history
and characteristics. The issues surrounding the design and implementation of a sampling plan for focus
group research will then be explored by examining the experiences of the Mass Media Project.
THE TARGETING MASS MEDIA CAMPAIGNS FOR HIV PREVENTION PROJECT
The Mass Media Project is a four-year project to develop, implement and evaluate a televised, public
service announcement (PSA) campaign that will encourage increased safer sexual behaviors in young adults
in two cities. In the last 15 years, several studies of interventions have demonstrated a change in risky sexual
behavior such as delaying sexual initiation and increased condom usage. Generally, these studies have been
based on social cognitive theory and have created small group and interpersonal interventions at sites such
as schools and clinics.
The Mass Media Project combines two on-going research streams. The first is focused on HIV
prevention and intervention. This research has already established that individuals with the personality traits
of high sensation seeking and/or impulsive decision making are significantly more likely to participate in risky
sexual behavior (Donohew et al., 2000; Ebreo, Feist-Price, Siewe & Zimmerman, 2002). Based on this
finding school-based HIV-related classroom curriculum has been designed to appeal to high sensation
seekers and impulsive decision-makers (Zimmerman, Donohew et al, in publication). The second stream of
research is focused on developing mass media prevention campaigns for substance use and abuse targeting
high sensation seekers since they are at higher risk to become substance users (Donohew, 1988; Donohew &
Palmgreen, 1994; Donohew, Palmgreen, Lorch, Zimmerman, & Harrington, 2002; D’Silva, Harrington,
Palmgreen, Donohew, & Lorch, 2001; Palmgreen et al., 1991;). Results from this research have shown that
the mass media campaigns can influence change in drug use (Palmgreen, Donohew, Lorch, Hoyle &
Stephenson, 2002; Stephenson & Palmgreen, 2001; Stephenson et al., 1999). This stream has also
produced a strategy called sensation seeking targeting (SENTAR) which identifies components of successful
messages that are high in sensation value and which capture the attention of high sensation seekers and
encourage them to attend to the message (Donohew, Lorch & Palmgreen, 1991; Everett & Palmgreen, 1995;
Lorch et al., 1994; Palmgreen, Lorch, Donohew, & Harrington, 1995; Palmgreen, Donohew, Lorch, Hoyle &
Stephenson, 2001; Palmgreen, Stephenson, Everett, Baseheart & Francies, 2002; Stephenson et al., 2002).
The Mass Media Project’s goal is to combine these two research traditions and develop tailored
messages that will reach young adults who are at risk for contracting HIV. In the summer of 2001, the Mass
Media Project began recruiting for the first of three waves of focus groups that would eventually include 276
subjects in 38 groups conducted over a 14-month period (Table 1). The data from these groups was used to
help conceive and shape original scripts for five television PSAs that will be produced in the fall of 2002. The


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