Multiple economic, cultural, and social factors determine the development, change, or maintenance of a person’s behavior (Schneiderman et al., 2001). A single determinant cannot account for an individual’s decision to smoke or not to, eat this or the other, among other health decisions. Individual health behavior is mainly determined by reactions to stress, knowledge, attitudes, culture, social relationships, family and social-economic status, etc. (Glanz & Bishop, 2010).
Impediments to health behavior change
Our health significantly depends on our lifestyle and, our risk for diseases increases when we pursue unhealthy behaviors. Yet, even with this knowledge, it is difficult for most people to let go of their bad health habits and, adopt and maintain healthy bones. Even when the motivation is strong, breaking an old unhealthy habit is difficult (Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 2007).
There exists a variety of reasons explaining this. Clinicians have identified negative motivation as one reason why people find it difficult to change their bad health habits (Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 2007). When a person is motivated by fear, regret, or guilt, their strategy for behavior change is more likely to be unsuccessful. Another reason is that most people’s strategies are too wide. Health experts advise that a change strategy should be specific to a particular goal such as adopting a low-calorie diet (Glanz & Bishop, 2010). A specific strategy is easier to stick to and it receives the required attention.
Aids to health behavior change
The will or desire to change unhealthy behaviors and adopt healthy habits is not enough to bring the desired change. The Health Belief Model of behavior change lists the factors that are most likely to determine the success of one’s change strategy. One’s perceived susceptibility to risk is one of them. If a person thinks that he/she is at great risk, then that person is likely to change his/her health behavior.
There is a high probability that a person will change health behavior if he/she; considers the effects of failure to change to be grave, perceives the benefits of the change as great, and also thinks that it will not be difficult to change. The difficulty may be in terms of money, effort, time, and other social difficulties. The presence of external factors that encourage behavior change may also assist in an individual’s effort to change his/her behavior.
Functions of behavior theories in the development of interventions
Scientific evidence is increasingly suggesting that health promotion interventions have a higher chance of success if they are based on scientific behavior theories (Green, 2000). Theories assist in identifying factors that are influential to a particular population’s or person’s behavior, and this provides an insight into certain health habits (Green, 2000). This information forms a solid and informed base for the design of an effective health promotion strategy.
The key constructs of the HBM assist in the collection of information that is relevant to a prevention-related strategy such as early cancer detection (Glanz & Bishop, 2010). Explanatory theories scrutinize the problem and assist in identifying health factors that may need to be changed. Change theories on the other hand are useful when developing and implementing the strategies. For an intervention to be successful, all its variables and elements must be in place. Theories help to identify the correct variables and elements for a successful intervention strategy.
Glanz, K. & Bishop, D. (2010). The Role of Behavioral Science Theory in Development and Implementation of Public Health Interventions. Annual Review of Public Health. 31. 399-418. Web.
Green, J. (2000). The Role of Theory in Evidence-Based Health Promotion Practice. Health Education Research. 15(2). 125-129. Web.
Harvard Women’s Health Watch. (2007). Why It’s Hard to Change Unhealthy Behavior— and Why You Should Keep Trying. Web.
Schneiderman, N., Speers, M., Silva, J., Tomes, J. & Gentry, J. (2001). Integrating Behavioral and Social Sciences with Public Health. Washington: American Psychological Association (APA).