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Changing Health Risk Behaviours: Benefits and Strategies

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 2401 words Published: 11th Apr 2018

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  • Jose L. Rivera

Changing Health Risk behaviors so People can Live Healthy and Productive Lives

Human behavior plays a vital role in the preservation of health as well as the prevention of disease. In order to reduce or decreased the significant morbidity and mortality linked with health-related behavior, health care professionals have looked into models of behavior change to steer the development of strategies that promote the person protective action, decrease behaviors that amplify health risk, and make possible helpful adaptation to the development coping strategies with illness. According to Ragin (2011), a number of different theories and models in psychology have been developed to explain human behavior. Some of them particularly designed to identify factors that explain certain health behaviors while others were intended to explain general behaviors. Growing evidence advocates that efficient programs to change individual health behavior involves a versatile approach to helping people adopt, change, and maintain behavior. There are some models or theories employed by health psychologist help explain a range of health behaviors.

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The National Prevention Strategy (NPS) of the United States Department of Health and Health Services focuses on four Strategic Directions to facilitate health behavior changes. These Strategic Directions are the foundation for a more developed, conscientious and prevention oriented culture. The strategies have been developed to direct actions towards improve health and to support Americans in leading longer and healthier lives (National Prevention Council, 2011). The following is a brief overview of the strategies promoted in the NPS:

  • Healthy and Safe Community Environments: Support communities that promote health and wellness through prevention as it is believed that many elements can affect health directly and also influence individuals’ health-related choices. A healthy community environment can help make healthy choices easy and affordable (National Prevention Council, 2011).
  • Clinical and Community Preventive Services: Make certain that prevention-focused health care and community prevention efforts are available and supported. Providing clinical and community preventive services is the key component to improving and enhancing physical and mental health. With the Affordable Care Act people will be able to receive many clinical preventive services (National Prevention Council, 2011).
  • Empowered People: To support people in making healthier choices. While there are many policies and programs in which people can make healthy options, they still need to be able to make healthy choices. In order to do that, people need to have access to more reasonable and accessible information and resources (National Prevention Council, 2011).
  • Elimination of Health Disparities: Eliminate disparities, improving the quality of life for all Americans. All Americans should have the opportunity to live a healthy and productive lives not matter what. In United States, health differences are often closely linked with social, economic, or environmental disadvantage but this differences can be eliminated at the same time the system tries to improve the health of all Americans (National Prevention Council, 2011).

These strategies seem to follow some of the five behavior health change models and theories. The strategy Healthy and Safe Community Environments stated that many elements affects and influence people’s health related choices. Therefore, a healthy community environment can help individuals make healthy choices (National Prevention Council, 2011). This seems to follows the Theory of Reason Action (TRA) in which the individual’s behaviors are determined by his or her intentions which are predisposed by two factors, attitude about the behaviors and subjective norms. The intention is based on a conviction regarding the likely outcome of the behavior. Theory of Reason Action suggests that some people’s behaviors are shaped by the opinions of those closer to them. However there are times in which individuals engage in behaviors that are inconsistent with the beliefs or values of those around them. Intentions correspond to a person’s motivation that develops into a conscious plan to exercise some kind of effort and perform the preferred behavior. Intentions are inclined by attitudes towards performing a particular behavior and social norms (Ragin, 2011).

According to Gibbons et al., (2009), for a number of young people, health related behaviors, together with risky behaviors, such as casual sex or binge drinking are mostly intentional. However, for others these behaviors are often not intentional or planned or yet anticipated. Instead, they are a response to circumstances, usually social, that were neither sought nor necessarily expected. If the young individual does not have an intention to not engage, then he or she is in danger for the many consequences that come with lack of preparation such as unplanned pregnancy, STIs, and even accidents.

The NPS strategy of Clinical and Community Preventive Services highlight the importance of preventive services and that the integration of those activities are vital to improving and enhancing physical and mental health. This seems to follow the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of Behavioral Change in which explains the individual changes as a process and not an event. Changes take place of time and as this strategy indicates, certain clinical preventive services have proven to be effective through decades of practice and research (National Prevention Council, 2011).

According to Ragin (2011), people move forward through five stages in order to attain successful behavioral change:

1) Pre-contemplative -There is a lack or no intention to change behavior,

2) Contemplative – The individual has started to consider change at some unclear time in the next months

3) Preparation for action– The person is considering or planning to make changes in the immediate future;

4) Action – The individual engages in behavior change

5) Maintenance – In where a steady state of behavior change is achieved

The advantage of the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) is that has general propositions for a number of areas of intervention development and implementation. This model of behavioral change is a suitable model for the enrollment of a specific population because it makes a supposition about the promptness for change of a range of individuals. Therefore, the individual should be incorporated in an intervention group based on his/ her belonging to one of the Transtheoretical Model stages. The people in this model find themselves in different stages and interventions need to be modified to meet their specific needs. In addition, conventional interventions frequently have high volume of dropout because the program does not match their particular needs (Ragin, 2011). So the benefit of applying this model is that TTM based interventions are intended to accommodate the needs of a specific group, this more likely guarantees a smaller volume of dropouts.

The NPS strategy of Empowered People emphasize that people should have access to information and resources so they are empowered to make healthier choices (National Prevention Council, 2011). This seems to follow the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) which suggests people belief that they have the resources and the opportunities required to act upon a behavior is directly connected to their perceived control over their behavior. The essential postulation of TPB is the fact that beliefs are the essential reason of any behavior and consequently, risk behavior can be easily altered or changed by modifying the underlying beliefs. TPB also suggests that social norms, attitudes, and perceived behavioral control persuade intention that correspond to the proximal determinant of behavior (Ragin, 2011).

Andrews, et al.,(2010) noted that childhood obesity problem in the United States has considerably increased, with the proportion of children identified as overweight or at risk of becoming overweight more than doubling over the last 25 years. Given the extent of the predicament, a great number of intervention efforts and campaigns have been implemented, with a good number successful programs finding parental involvement to be influential in decreasing childhood obesity rates. For the effectiveness of parental involvement to be maximized in available interventions, formative research needs to be performed on how parents view the predicament of adolescent obesity and their role in making possible a healthy lifestyle for their children.

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The benefit of applying this model is that TPB has been extensively used since it offers a comprehensible theoretical account of the associations between intentions, attitudes, and behavior. In addition, it states how these constructs must be operationalized, which can make the design of behavior change interventions easier. Successful behavior change can be achieved when intentions are changed thorough either subjective norms, attitudes, or perceived behavioral control (Ragin, 2011).

The NPS strategy of Elimination of Health Disparities stipulates that all Americans should have the opportunity to live a healthy life not matter their ethnicity, religion and social status. It also indicates that health disparities are usually connected to social, economic, and/ or environmental disadvantages (National Prevention Council, 2011). This seems to follow many or a combination of Models of Behavioral Change. Starting with Health Belief Model which works on understanding why and under what conditions a person seeks preventive health services (Ragin, 2011).

According to Downing-Matibag and Geisinger (2009), the Health Belief Model presumes that the probability of an individual engaging in a definite health behavior is a function of a number of beliefs: the degree to which the individual believes is predisposed to a particular illness; the individual’s opinion of the severity of the illness consequences; the alleged costs or barriers of assuming a health behavior; as well as the perceived benefits of assuming the desired health behavior. These cognitive issues decide beliefs in personal health threat as well as the efficiency of a health behavior. Furthermore, the model proposes that certain prompts to action can set off health behavior when the appropriate health beliefs are held. One predicament with the Health Belief Model is that it does not identify how the different beliefs influence one another as well as how the clarifying issues are united to influence the individual’s behavior. This ended in different studies utilizing different ways of analyzing variables such as multiplying vulnerability and taking away barriers from benefits. Another dilemma is that the authors presented no operational definition of the variables and this guided researchers to apply a different methodology in their studies.

Based on NPS strategies, wellness and health are influenced by the environment or places, in which citizens learn, live, play and work. Existing proof for prevention is strong, and the needs of more effective strategies are important for improvement in the public’s health. It is recommended that most effective types of strategies, policies, communications and media, should be implemented. Future evaluation and research together with well designed trials for many alternative and complementary medicine treatments will be significant to deal with unmet prevention and wellness needs in order to improve health. Neighborhoods, including schools, homes, public areas, and work locations, need to be more aware that they can be changed to support well being and furthermore, make healthy choices easy and affordable.

The marketing plan recommended at this time is to develop a framework to put together in line prevention efforts, along with agencies collaboration, and keep up impetus at the state and local levels via media and commercials. Nevertheless, in order for the services to be more applicable to diverse group considerable cultural conversions, as well as infrastructure changes inside and across all agencies, should take effect to make certain a healthier future for all.


Andrews, K. R., Silk, K. S., & Eneli, I. U. (2010). Parents as Health Promoters: A Theory of Planned Behavior Perspective on the Prevention of Childhood Obesity.Journal Of Health Communication,15(1), 95-107. doi:10.1080/10810730903460567

Downing-Matibag, T. M., & Geisinger, B. (2009). Hooking up and sexual risk taking among college students: a health belief model perspective.Qualitative Health Research,19(9), 1196-1209. doi:10.1177/1049732309344206Rueda, A., & Schmitter-Edgecombe, M. (2009). Time estimation abilities in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychology, 23(2), 178-188. doi:10.1037/a0014289.

Gibbons, F. X., Houlihan, A. E., & Gerrard, M. (2009). Reason and reaction: The utility of a dual-focus, dual-processing perspective on promotion and prevention of adolescent health risk behaviour. British Journal Of Health Psychology,14(2), 231-248.

National Prevention Council, (2011). National Prevention Strategy, Washington, DC:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General.

Ragin,D.(2011). Health Psychology: An interdisciplinary approach to health. Upper Saddle River, N.J.:Pearson Education.

Radecki Breitkopf, C., Asiedu, G., Egginton, J., Sinicrope, P., Opyrchal, S., Howell, L., & … Boardman, L. (2014). An investigation of the colorectal cancer experience and receptivity to family-based cancer prevention programs.Supportive Care In Cancer,22(9), 2517-2525. doi:10.1007/s00520-014-2245-9


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