The Importance of Theories in Health Promotion
Public health promotion programs are designed to improve health, prevent disease, and mitigate death. These programs also promote a better quality of life and advocate conditions in which people can be healthier and have a better quality of life. Successful health promotion programs are designed in such a way that they assess the fundamental cause or causes of certain health problems or unhealthy behaviors. The program then incorporates actual interventions to address the problems and behaviors linked to the public health problem. In order to do that, health promotion workers/practitioners are using various theories related to health behaviors during the various phases of planning, implementing, and evaluating a certain proposed intervention.
Theories assist the public health practitioners in understanding the nature of certain targeted health behaviors. The theories are then used to explain the dynamics of the behavior, the process of changing the behavior, and the effects of external influences on the behavior. Theories assist the practitioners in explaining a certain behavior and suggesting ways to achieve behavior change.
Social Cognitive Theory
The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) is an indicator that can further explain how people exhibit certain behaviors. At the same time, this theory analyzes and suggests specific intervention strategies that could be used to change negative behaviors and promote positive behaviors. Evaluating behavioral change depends on three main factors: environment, people, and behavior.
When we discuss the environment, we are referring to certain factors that can influence an individual’s behavior or behaviors. Some of these factors could be attributed to an individual’s surroundings (such as their immediate family, friends, and co-workers, to name a few). The person themselves can often have specific
influences that can affect other individuals in a negative or positive manner.
Also the physical environment or conditions that an individual lives, works, and socialize in may affect his or her behaviors. Examples include an individual’s food intake, his or her living conditions, or the safety conditions of his or her workplace.
Another factor is a situation or episode of an event. This is when an individual’s mental state, views, and perception are displayed at a particular moment or moments. Please note that those three factors outlined earlier (environment, people, and behavior) are actually consistently mingled together.
One of the examples of an application of this theory has to do with evaluating and changing college students’ behaviors towards consistently using contraceptive methods in order to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases. Research and data suggest that, in order to influence behaviors, it is important first to gather appropriate data about the shown behaviors and to provide the necessary information to the individuals so they can see the benefits of the proposed strategies. Secondly, researchers suggest that we need to gather and understand participants’ actual beliefs about the results once the recommended change strategies are taken. An evaluation of this process is needed to ensure quality and result-driven methodologies related to the targeted population.
Thirdly, researchers suggest that participants would feel confident that these strategies would be effective and consistent in changing their desired behavior or behaviors. It is important to persuade and encourage the participants by pointing out specific strengths of those change strategies.
Let’s further discuss the concept of health communication and social marketing. Most of you are probably familiar with this concept of social marketing. Social marketing is widely used to influence health behavior. This is one of the methods being used by health promotion practitioners when they are trying to influence behavior by using certain social marketing messages. These would include educational advertisement promotional messages by way of campaigns, public announcements, and community outreach programs. The goal of these messages is to promote healthier habits, increase physical activity, and end smoking.
The concept of marketing—or an action to market something to a targeted group of individuals—relies on the following four key areas: product, price, place, and promotion (or the four Ps of marketing). We will dive deeper into each of these four key areas.
Let’s start with a product component. Products could be items such as condoms, certain services (medical exams, medical screenings), and certain practices (breastfeeding, for example, or eating health foods). Some products could also be considered intangible (e.g., the need for better environmental protection, air pollution, safer and better drinking water, etc.). The key here is when a “product” is being offered to the public as part of the social marketing campaign. This can also be a tool used for public health promotion practitioners to recognize that people must first recognize that they have a condition, disease, or problem.
Price refers to what the individual must do in order to obtain the social marketing product and what they have to give up or mitigate for that product. This is not necessarily represented by a monetary value, but it could be measured in terms of time, a person’s effort, or risks they have to take.
Place describes the way that the product would actually get into the individual’s hands. Here, we are referring to certain key information provided to the individual. Two examples include the serious health risks and side effects of smoking or lack of physical exercise and what specific methods are used to communicate information on these topics to individuals. These could be channels such as physicians’ offices or community outreach trainings.
Promotion refers to certain uses of advertising, public relations, and/or media advocacy campaigns. The focus here is on creating and sustaining demand for the product. Some examples of promotion approaches could be public service announcements, paid TV or radio ads, coupons, or media events.
Let’s put all these areas together and see how they would be applied in an actual strategy for a breast cancer screening campaign for women. Public health promotion practitioners are attempting to implement this campaign to the public: specifically, a targeted demographic.
· The product would be getting an annual mammogram and seeing a physician for a breast exam.
· The price would be the possibility of actually finding a lump. Title
· The place would refer to places where the educational and promotional activities (regarding the importance of having periodically-scheduled breast exams) took place.
· Finally, promotion would be done through public service announcements and billboards, for example.
Let’s conclude our discussion by covering the concept of organizational culture and its effects on work-related health behavior.
There are various factors or actions that have direct influence on peoples’ health conditions while they are at work. Some of the factors are categorized as social relations of employment. These would include various labor-related interactions among employees and with each other as well as their relations with management and supervisors. Another category would be job conditions. One example is the stress an employee might be faced with because of the work environment or actual physical work conditions, such as unsafe work processes, uncomfortable surroundings, work equipment, lightning, air quality, or noise. These factors are collectively referred to as an organizational culture.
If certain company’s management really care about the health and welfare of their employees and recognizes the impact of these workers’ health on the productivity, it really needs to: recognize the importance of having an effective and strong culture that would promote healthy practices. Other examples include minimizing stress amongst their employees; promotion of a positive climate, and productive relationships between employees and their supervisors. It is also important to create and have safe working conditions/policies/practices; as well as comfortable physical surroundings. All these factors/conditions will influence workers’ health and their quality of work life. Some of the approaches that are used in the workplace might include
· promoting preventive care (such as offering flu vaccines at a workplace),
· encouraging exercise and more physical activity,
· emphasizing education (e.g., have some seminars talking about healthy eating and food choices)
· having employee incentive programs (e.g., having check-ups and allowing people with healthy weight and blood pressure to win some prizes),
· providing more healthy and nutritious menu options in the workplace’s cafeteria, and
· having some outside resource for employee to go to or contact if they are experiencing some personal, stress-related mental health issues.