Hope May Be A Useful Strategy in Promoting Preventive Health Care


Patients are more likely to take action when public health messages instill hope.

Fear is a common tactic used to promote healthy behaviors. The idea is that a person will fear a disease, like skin cancer, and take preventive measures, such as wearing sunscreen.

Recently published findings show that fear can be more effective in motivating patients when hope is also presented, according to findings published by Health Communication. While fear can assist in raising awareness about a health problem, it often fails at leading to preventive measures, according to the study.

By combining the emotions of fear and hope, patients may be more likely to take precautions. In 2 studies, both hope and self-efficacy were found to predict action against skin cancer, including the use of sunscreen and protective clothing. Self-efficacy is the belief that a person can take measures to help themselves.

The first study recruited 341 patients, aged 17 to 72 years, who were included in Mechanical Turk, Amazon’s online task completion platform. Participants were instructed to read an article about skin cancer that imitated a WebMD page, according to the authors. The article contained 3 sections: “how susceptible are most of us to skin cancer,”“how severe is skin cancer,”and “what actions can we take to prevent skin cancer and how effective are those measures?” Patients reported that the article evoked feelings of hope, optimism, and encouragement, which were all found to predict the likelihood of sun protection, according to the study.

The second study included 382 undergraduate students who watched a video on melanoma and had to answer questions afterward. A total of 367 students completed a follow up survey a week later to determine if any participants had adopted sun safety behavior. It was determined that hope played a significant role in taking preventive action, and continuing that action for at least 1 week, according to the study.

Future studies should evaluate the efficacy of individualized messages and the message environment, according to the researchers.


  • Nabi RL, Myrick JG. Uplifting Fear Appeals: Considering the Role of Hope in Fear-Based Persuasive Messages. Health Comm. 2018; https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2017.1422847

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