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Environmental Assessment Regulations Social Marketing Study

Subject Matter

Health Canada and Environment Canada were developing new regulations to assess the impact on the environment and on human health of substances used in products that are regulated under the Food and Drugs Act (F&DA). The purpose of this research was to survey the general public to assess current awareness, attitudes, knowledge and behaviours related to the disposal of products regulated under the Food and Drugs Act and their potential environmental impact. Specifically, the research was designed to determine behavioural patterns, attitudes and beliefs of the public regarding the disposal of household products, to establish benchmarks and provide baseline data on the relevant awareness, attitudes, and behaviours of Canadians, and to provide recommendations on the social marketing and public education implications of the research findings. This research served to determine the educational needs of the population as they relate to the disposal of F&DA-regulated products. Health Canada used the results to raise awareness of, and encourage use of, appropriate practices. The results also served as a benchmark, and formed the foundation of the evaluation framework for the public education campaign.


A total of 1,512 surveys were conducted by phone with Canadian residents, 18 years of age and older, across all regions of the country. Regional oversamples were used in order to support regional analyses. The data were then weighted to ensure that the final results were representative of the Canadian population as a whole. The research was conducted in both English and French, with a pre-test undertaken in both official languages (15 in English, 15 in French). Interviews averaged approximately 15 minutes in length. Based on a sample of this size, the results can be considered to be accurate within +/- 2.6%, 19 times out of 20. A cluster analysis was performed on the data to segment the population into distinct groups based on their attitudes and behaviour vis--vis related issues.

The main challenges with this study had to do with the design of the questionnaire:

  • Questionnaire design was a significant challenge because of the need to accurately assess awareness, behaviours and attitudes. Sequencing was a key issue. Awareness measures were put first (minimal in number/scope), followed by core behavioural questions to obtain an accurate reading of behaviour patterns, followed by attitudinal and more detailed awareness/knowledge questions. For this topic, where politically-correct and socially-desirable responses are a potential threat to truthful answers, we tried to limit the extent to which we conveyed information to respondents through the questions in order to maximize the accuracy of their responses. We put key behaviour questions early on in the survey to maximize the accuracy of this information since the social marketing campaign will be targeted to changing the behaviours of Canadians.
  • For the segmentation, it was important that the survey contain questions to support this analysis. Careful attention was paid to the scales used, the question batteries included, and the inclusion of core summary questions in each area for use in the analysis.
  • In the questionnaire construction, efforts were made to identify and clearly describe a mix of F&DA-regulated products on which to focus. Careful selection was required to ensure a good, representative mix of relevant items from different food and drug categories.
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