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Queensland Stay On Your Feet® - Toolkit Phase 2 Key messages

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Key messages

What are key messages?

Key messages are the messages you want your audience to hear, read, remember, react and relate to [153, 154]. They are the words that you will use in your project/program communication materials including flyers, fact sheets, invitations, media releases, newspaper articles, websites and newsletters [154, 155]. They are linked to your project/program goals, objective and strategies. It is recommended to develop no more than seven key messages and to review these messages as your project /program develops [155].

Key messages are:

  • concise (avoid jargon and acronyms) [153]
  • active (make every sentence active) [153]
  • positive (talk about what people can do, not what they can't) [153]
  • short (one memorable sentence, 10 to15 seconds to say) [153]
  • specific (address a particular challenge and audience) [153]
  • believable (supported by facts or evidence) [154]
  • understood by the target group and key stakeholders [154]
  • focused on benefits [154]
  • relevant to the target group [22].

Developing key messages

One way to develop a key message is by using the following formula [156]:

Claim (what you want people to believe)
= fact (undisputable truth) + example (supports the fact)

For example:

  • Claim: Staying active and improving your balance helps you to stay on your feet.
  • Fact + example: Research shows that physical activity that includes balance exercises is the most effective falls prevention strategy. For example, falls were significantly reduced in older people who participated in Tai Chi classes twice a week.

Before you can develop key messages, you need to have an in-depth understanding of your target group.

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Know your target group

Participation in falls prevention programs and the uptake of the interventions is low [147, 148, 149, 150, 151]. A number of studies have been conducted around the world to gain a better understanding of the best way to communicate information to older people about preventing falls. These studies identified why falls prevention advice is often dismissed and offer suggestions on how to develop messages that will be more acceptable to the target group.

Why falls prevention advice is often dismissed

Studies show the term ‘falls prevention’ is considered to be about reducing hazards and mobility aids [147, 150]. The word ‘falls’ has strong negative connotations and is linked to being old, frail and dependent and possibly having a drinking problem [100, 150].

Older people often dismiss falls prevention messages because they do not believe that the risk of falling can be reduced [147] and consequently, they do not believe they need this information [151].Key message quotes

Other reasons why older people dismiss falls prevention advice include:

  • the information is useful but not relevant to them as it is only for older and frailer people [147,148, 149]
  • they do not accept that they are at risk of falls [148, 149]
  • they are overconfident about their abilities [149]
  • they believe that falls are proof of the impact of ageing [147] and if they accept they are at risk, they may be branded or stigmatised as being old and frail [149]
  • they have heard from people that have fallen that it happened due to inattention and it will not happen again [149]
  • have other key issues of more concern [147]
  • lack of understanding of the personal (intrinsic) risk factors for falls or feel that it is not possible to change these causes [147]
  • focus only on the external (extrinsic) risk factors which they feel they have more control over [147]
  • they believe falls are an inevitable part of growing old and not likely to happen to them [147]
  • information is unsuitable for their situation or incompatible with other important objectives such as convenience and practicality [148]
  • not wanting to be told what to do particularly, when given in a lecturing or directive tone [149]
  • they lack knowledge of what can be done to prevent falls [147, 152, 153]
  • information is not needed, wanted or helpful as it seems to be just common sense, with the information perceived to be insulting and patronising [148,149]
  • feel that nothing can be done [149].

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How do we persuade people to take up falls prevention?

Messages with the following characteristics are seen as more acceptable to older people:

  • multiple benefits of improving strength and balance such as interest, enjoyment, mood, improved health, confidence and independence are highlighted [148,149]
  • choice is offered eg. individual and group activities [151]
  • advice is tailored to the person’s situation and capabilities [149]
  • enhances independent living and quality of life [100, 147, 148]
  • uses the word ‘trips’ instead of ‘falls’ [150]
  • focus on positive, healthy active ageing [100, 150] eg. staying independent, free, in control and staying in your own home [100, 147].

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Who can give the message?

The sender of a health message must be acceptable by the target group in order for them to consider adopting the message. Studies have shown that key information sources for older people about falls prevention include:

  • health professionals, particularly general practitioners (GPs) and specialists who are identified as the most trusted and influential sources of advice to older people [147, 152, 207]
  • other health professionals eg. community nurses and podiatrists [147]
  • government departments, particularly health and aged services [147]
  • word of mouth from friends and peers [147, 152].
"A few years ago, I had some back steps with no rail but it didn’t worry me. I had a friend who rang one day and she said 'I have fallen down the back step'. She was ringing to tell me to get a rail down my back steps straight away. And that was ten years ago. And so, often I think of her and say "thanks" as I pull myself up the rail" - Female, aged 76-85 years. [147]

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Where will older people access messages?

Studies show that older people access falls prevention information from the following people and places:

  • doctors surgeries, pharmacies, community meeting places and libraries [147]
  • local newspapers, including the community newspaper and other community newsletters [147]
  • radio, television and current affairs programs [147]
  • talks at various clubs or community centres as older people attend for social interaction outside the home as well as learning [147]
  • preferred communication channels include verbal, handwritten, electronic or demonstration. Ideally available in more than one format [207].

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Last updated: 7 August 2012