The university environment: A comprehensive assessment of health-related advertisements

Katie Szymona, Virginia Quick, Melissa Olfert, Karla Shelnutt, Kendra K. Kattlemann, Onikia Brown-Esters, Sarah E. Colby, Christina Beaudoin, Jocelyn Lubniewski, Angelina Moore Maia, Tanya Horacek, Carol Byrd-Bredbenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Little is known about health-related advertising on university environments. Given the power of advertising and its potential effect on health behaviors, the purpose of this paper is to assess the health-related advertisement environment and policies on university campuses. Design/methodology/approach: In total, ten geographically and ethnically diverse US university campuses that were trained in using the health-related advertisement survey tool participated in the study. Inter-rater reliability with data collectors at each university was established before data commencement began in Spring 2011. The survey tool assessed the types, locations, and prevalence of health-related advertisements and messages (e.g. nutrition, alcohol, tobacco) on campus, and included both advertisements and messages related to any aspect of health by any sponsor. Current campus health-related policies from each institution were collected as well. Findings: The largest proportion of advertisements on all campuses were for diet/nutrition, exercise/fitness, and alcohol. The majority of advertisements promoted positive health behaviors recommended by health professionals. Unbranded advertisements were more likely to promote positive health behaviors than branded advertisements. Diet/nutrition, tobacco, and drug advertisements were more likely to be positive, whereas alcohol-related advertisements tended to be negative. Originality/value: The paper's findings indicate significant gaps in campus health-related policies with regard to healthy eating and physical activity and lack of policies covering health-related advertisement content. Benchmark data like those reported here can help campus stakeholders set priorities and work with campus decision makers to advocate for the development and implementation of healthy campus policies that support healthy environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-512
Number of pages16
JournalHealth Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Advertisements
  • Behavior
  • Diet
  • Environment
  • Exercise
  • Health-related
  • Nutrition
  • Personal health
  • Policy
  • United States of America
  • Universities
  • University campus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'The university environment: A comprehensive assessment of health-related advertisements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this