Aims To determine the impact of HeadSmart upon public awareness of brain tumours in childhood
Introduction The HeadSmart campaign (www.headsmart.org.uk) aims to disseminate the RCPCH endorsed Brain Pathways Guideline and to reduce the median symptom interval for childhood brain tumours to 5 weeks in the UK.
Methods HeadSmart aims to raise public and professional awareness of brain tumour symptomatology and indications for brain scanning. HeadSmart was marketed in June 2011 through a media campaign launch estimated to reach 10 million. Public awareness was evaluated in February 2011 and in October 2011 by face-to-face omnibus survey using computer-assisted personal interviewing. Questions concerning sources of medical advice, awareness of brain tumour symptoms and signs and time to seeking medical advice were asked. Awareness of HeadSmart was assessed in the post survey.
Results 647 (Pre) / 648 (Post) responses of the UK public were obtained. 89% (Pre) / 88% (Post) were in regular contact with children or young people. Preferred sources of medical advice / information included GP (64 / 56%), NHS Direct telephone helpline (43% / 36%), NHS Direct website (32% / 27%), speaking to the parent or guardian (43%/39%) and speaking to a friend or relative (42% / 40%). Over 80% of respondents were aware that headaches, vomiting, seizures or fits, and visual problems were strongly indicative of brain tumour. Respondents also aware that poor balance and coordination (79%/77%), change in behaviour (65%/57%) were indicative. Only 11-46%/9-46% were aware that abnormal head position, lethargy, weight loss, delayed / arrested / abnormal puberty and polyuria and polydipsia were associated with brain tumour. 42%/35% would discuss any of the symptoms listed with a doctor within 48 hours and 60%/57% within 2 weeks. Pubertal abnormalities were not identified as appropriate for urgent discussion with a doctor. 11% of post launch cohort were aware of HeadSmart.
Conclusions The HeadSmart launch achieved an 11% awareness in the UK population. The public are least aware of head tilt, lethargy, weight loss and endocrine symptoms (puberty and diabetes insipidus) as being potentially indicative of a brain tumour. These symptoms will be the focus of future marketing seeking to reach >70% UK population by 2013.