Effects of environmental changes in a stair climbing intervention: generalization to stair descent

Webb, Oliver J. and Eves, Frank F. (2007) Effects of environmental changes in a stair climbing intervention: generalization to stair descent. American Journal of Health Promotion, 22(1), pp. 38-44. ISSN (print) 0890-1171


PURPOSE: Visual improvements have been shown to encourage stair use in worksites independently of written prompts. This study examined whether visual modifications alone can influence behavior in a shopping mall. Climbing one flight of stairs, however, will not confer health benefits. Therefore, this study also assessed whether exposure to the intervention encouraged subsequent stair use. DESIGN: Interrupted time-series design. SETTINGS: Escalators flanked by a staircase on either side. SUBJECTS: Ascending and descending pedestrians (N = 81,948). INTERVENTIONS: Following baseline monitoring, a colorful design was introduced on the stair risers of one staircase (the target staircase). A health promotion message was superimposed later on top. The intervention was visible only to ascending pedestrians. Thus, any rise in descending stair use would indicate increased intention to use stairs, which endured after initial exposure to the intervention. MEASURES: Observers inconspicuously coded pedestrians' means of ascent/descent and demographic characteristics. RESULTS: The design alone had no meaningful impact. Addition of the message, however, increased stair climbing at the target and nontarget staircases by 190% and 52%, respectively. The message also produced a modest increase in stair descent at the target (25%) and nontarget (9%) staircases. CONCLUSIONS: In public venues, a message component is critical to the success of interventions. In addition, it appears that exposure to an intervention can encourage pedestrians to use stairs on a subsequent occasion.

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