Charles Atkin, Ph.D., a member of the National Communication Association and chairman of the Communication Department at Michigan State University, recently addressed the U.S. House of Representatives to brief policymakers on the most effective strategies for safety education. His presentation, entitledStrategic Communication Campaigns to Improve Health and Safetyand delivered during an Oct. 5 briefing, explained that conventional safety campaigns only attain a modest degree of impact, but he offered promising approaches for improvement.

“Safety messages alter people’s risk perceptions and motivate them to perform safer behaviors,” said Atkin. “We do research showing how campaigns help improve people’s lives, but that research is only useful when policy makers are aware of it. Briefings like this are important because it connects policymakers and researchers.”

Atkin told the congressmen that solid academic research needs to be behind any safety campaign to be effective. Safety campaigns need to involve strategies, research and use multiple channels, said Atkin, adding that campaigns need to target friends and family that influence an individual’s behavior. He also said that campaigns need to focus on incentives that are likely to happen from safe behavior, such as focusing on the benefits of living, rather than sending messages of possible death.