By Dr. Ebun Ebunlomo
Associate Professor, Public Health, American Military University
Note: This article is the first article in a two-part series.
The one aspect of our society that we all have in common is health. The prevention of disease and the promotion of healthy behavior can be complex, given that health behavior, like human behavior, is dynamic. The dynamic interaction between an individual and his environment as it relates to health behavior is what is referred to as the socio-ecological framework/model in health promotion.
Start a public health degree at American Military University.
In essence, this perspective recognizes that health behavior is a result of the interdependence of personal, community and societal factors. Therefore, attempts to explain the “why” behind a health behavior are divided into the following levels of influences: Individual/intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, community and public policy.
The National Cancer Society’s publication, “Theory at a Glance,” includes several theories to predict or explain why we adopt a health behavior at the individual level. These theories focus on individual factors such as knowledge, attitudes, past experiences and skills.
Some common individual-level theories are:
- The health belief model
- The theory of reasoned action/theory of planned behavior
- The transtheoretical model/stages of change
- The precaution adoption process model
- The social cognitive theory
The Health Belief Model
This model asserts that individuals’ perceptions about the threat posed by a health condition/disease, the benefits of avoiding the health condition/disease, and one’s confidence in preventing the health condition/disease explain why someone would adopt a health behavior. Cues to action, such as reminders or providing “how to” information, are some strategies that this theory posits to prompt adoption of a health behavior.
The Theory of Reasoned Action/Theory of Planned Behavior
This theory explains how an individual’s attitudes toward a behavior, perceptions of norms around the behavior, and beliefs about the ease or difficulty of adopting the health behavior work together to predict health behavior adoption.
As the saying goes, “Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are,” this theory suggests that one of the factors influencing an individual’s adoption of a health behavior is whether her friends or loved ones approve of the chosen behavior. For instance, if your co-workers or friends approve of your decision to eat a healthy lunch, you are more likely to eat a healthy lunch.
Part 2 of this article covers the transtheoretical model/stages of change, the precaution adoption process model and the social cognitive theory.
About the Author
Dr. Ebun Ebunlomo, MPH, MCHES, is a trained scholar in health promotion and health education, with over 10 years of experience developing, implementing and evaluating public health programs in clinical, community and work-site settings. She previously was an evaluation fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She received her Ph.D. in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, with minors in Epidemiology and Leadership/Management from the University of Texas School of Public Health.