Introduction When monitoring population health-related behaviours it is important to assess the effectiveness of delivering health related information to specific target groups such that any need for improved communication can be identified. The Italian Behavioural Risk Factors Surveillance System Passi is conducted through Local Health Units (LHUs) personnel interviewing a random sample of 18–69 year olds monthly. PinC, the Programme of Information and Communication for Gaining Health, promoted a training project for Passi care workers the aim of which was to achieve competency in communication using methods that were pre-tested and effective.
Methods Forty operators from 25 LHUs participated in the six-monthly-training: three one day meetings (22 April 2010, 24 June 2010, 11 November 2010) and two rounds of two-monthly-activities in the field. A password-protected portal was used for exchanging materials among participants at a distance.
Results The seven inter-regional Working Groups planned communication, performed and tested materials using surveillance results for specific target groups at a local level. The need for effective approaches to communication was highlighted. Draft materials (leaflets for older women, posters for young people, charts for GPs, papers for policy makers/stakeholders) were tested on selected target groups. The two lay target populations (women, children) evaluated the tools positively, critiquing images, recommending clear and essential messages, clarifying what should be done to improve health. The professional groups suggested editing of text and space for graphs/tables. Materials will be modified accordingly and delivered.
Conclusion Surveillance systems are valuable tools for advocacy at a local level. Communication is fundamental for knowledge, awareness and empowerment processes in specific target groups, professional and lay. To be effective, materials must be carefully planned and tested.
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