How Do We Change Health Related Behaviour?

1 January 2017

Health related behaviour, brief intervention, alcohol, stages of change, intervention mapping. ABSTRACT The health of people depends widely on their behaviour. Targeting unhealthy behaviours depends upon a number of factors since the health practitioner needs to take into account the beliefs, the intensity of the unhealthy behaviour, an individual’s readiness to change in order to design an appropriate intervention to help the individuals understand the risks of that particular behaviour thereby inducing change.

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Using alcohol consumption as a health related behavior, brief interventions for this behaviour have been explained, this is mainly due to the large success of brief interventions. Thus this essay critically discusses examples of brief interventions in order determine what contributes to a successful intervention. INTRODUCTION Every human’s health and well being is affected by health related behaviour often regarded as the foremost important element or factor.

With the rapid advancement in science, diseases that were incurable, today can be treated and prevented easily. It is a well understood phenomenon that individuals are unique and are characterized by multidimensional behaviours. So in order to achieve positive outcomes in improving one’s health, appropriate behaviour needs to be promoted. There are variations in health-related behaviours in terms of duration, frequency and manner of impact on one’s health.

Health-related behaviours can be single actions involving only a primary decision such as taking part in a screening examination for example, mammography and other health-related behaviours which are long-term habits or patterns of behaviour which involve many decisions since they continue over an extended period of time. For example, smoking and dietary habits Health-related behaviours could have a positive or a negative effect on one’s health.

Health-related behaviours that have a positive effect are referred to as Health-protective behaviours such as using sunscreen, regular exercise, eating a low fat diet, whereas, some can have a negative effect such as substance abuse and stress-inducing behaviours. This essay aims to discuss the various effects that alcohol has on individuals and evaluate using studies with evidence as to how interventions can refrain people from alcohol abuse. “Drinking is interlinked into the fabric of many societies such as sharing a bottle of wine over a meal, celebrating special occasions and going out for drinks with friends”.

Because alcohol has become such a popular element in several activities, individuals find it difficult to function socially without having alcohol failing to realise that their behaviour could become problematic. Alcohol consumption as behaviour is therefore a result of complex group of genetic, psychological and environmental factors which facilitate this kind of behaviour. The short term effects of alcohol include dizziness and talkativeness and the immediate effects of a large amount of alcohol include slurred speech, disturbed sleep, nausea and vomiting.

Even low doses of alcohol impair judgement and coordination whereas moderate levels of alcohol increases instances of aggressive behaviour. Consequently long term effects of alcohol can lead to addiction (alcoholism), where an individual consumes large amounts of alcohol which is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms, hallucinations, mood swings, memory loss and blackouts, inability to concentrate, personality breakdown, infertility, alcohol poisoning, cancer of the liver, strokes, high blood pressure as well as severe anxiety. This when combined with poor nutrition can lead to permanent damage to vital organs in the body.

Alcohol consumption often depends not only on the quantity and frequency of the consumption behaviour but also personal characteristics of an individual such as age, gender and weight. Although not quite believable that alcohol might have any beneficial aspect towards health, studies have revealed that moderate consumption of alcohol can reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases. This link between alcohol consumption and risk of heart disease is because ethanol in the alcohol increases the serum concentration of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

Hence individuals especially over and above the age of 45 who are largely prone to risk of heart diseases could benefit from such moderate consumption. Why is there need and importance to change health-related behaviour? The health of individuals and societies at large is dependent extensively on their behaviour; therefore it is logical to say that behaviour is an important determinant of the health outcome of people. It is estimated that life expectancies through such behavioural changes could increase by 9 years and if a person could get rid of all unhealthy personal habits he would stand to gain a further 2. years (Bunker, 2001).

The interaction levels of social, psychological, biological and environmental factors are said to have a significant influence in the commencement stage and maintenance stage of change in health behaviour of people (National Aceademy of Sciences, 2001). In order to further explicate this need and importance of change in health-related behaviour, few risky behaviours have been taken, there consequences detail and try to predict what would happen if behaviour did not change.

For instance, smoking causes thousands of deaths from numerous diseases and it has been estimated that 25 million Americans living today and 5 million people younger than 18 years will suffer a premature death from smoking related illnesses. According to NHS statistics, approximately 114,000 people die of smoking related diseases. People smoke because nicotine is a severe addiction which weaves its way into their lives, attaching itself to everything they do.

Irrespective of the beliefs that exist with respect to the risks of smoking, it does not really motivate people to avoid or quit the behaviour. There is a need for individuals to attach certain amount of personal importance to the health effects of their smoking behaviour otherwise even having complete knowledge that smoking poses health problems would have no impact on the behaviour of the individual (Jon A. Krosnick et al 2006). Due to the reasons stated above, it can be noted that there is a need to change behaviour so that people can lead healthier stress-free lives.

Another example could be dietary habits. Dietary habits are based on topographical landscapes and culture. Cultural differences can bring about an immense change in the food habits that people follow. In order to lead a healthy life, people should develop and maintain a healthy diet which is a significant and controllable risk factor for several leading causes of death. Unhealthy dietary habits as per studies have shown that more than 300,000 deaths occur per year as dietary factors contribute to a wide range of diseases.

In order to prevent people suffering from these diseases and to reduce mortality rates that rise out of unhealthy habits it is important and essential that these behaviours are changed (Taylor). The stated above are just a few types of health related behaviours that could be risky if not taken care of or checked on regularly. Several other health related risk behaviours include, condom use among students, use of oral contraceptives, breast self examination in older women, mammography participation, AIDS risk related behaviour, testicular self examination, safety belt non use and many more.

But in the event of possession of such risky behaviours how do we reduce or abstain from such behaviour. Researchers along with psychologists and medical practitioners have extensively studied and developed various frameworks and models that could facilitate change in health related behaviours of people. These models have been proven successful. It also depends on whether the objective is to influence change amongst general public or just individuals. Different strategies, tools and methodology would be needed to be adopted to determine the change in health behaviours.

Some of the widely and commonly used models to change behaviour are, the Transtheoritical Behaviour Change Model, Health-belief model, Theory of Reasoned Action, Social Cognitive Theory, Motivational Interviewing and FRAMES model. These are briefly explained below; The Transtheoritical Model of Behaviour Change, developed by (Prochaska J, 1992) provides a useful framework by analysing the stages and processes that people go through to change their behaviours.

The model consists of 4 stages, pre-contemplation stage, contemplation stage, action stage and maintenance stage. The model was developed initially to treat addiction to alcohol, smoking and drug use, but has now been used in several other behaviours as well. According to the Health Belief Model, an individual’s practice of particular health behaviour can be understood by knowing the extent to which the person perceives the health threat and his/her perception of the practice that could reduce the threat.

The person’s perception of health threat are influenced by general health values that are concerned with interest and concern about health, special beliefs associated with the possibility of resulting disorders and their consequences. The persons perceived threat reduction is composed of two components, the first being whether the individual thinks health behaviour will be effective and whether the cost of adopting the measure is offset by the benefits that the measure could offer. Social Cognitive Theory lays emphasis on the interaction between a person’s thoughts and perceptions on ne hand, and his/her behaviour on the other.

The emphasis is usually through processes such as self-efficacy and outcome expectancies. In order to change health related behaviour the application of theories has echoed wide significance. These theories are applied to strategies and action plans to change health behaviour in the form of interventions. Discussion with relation to interventions explaining its significance, its relevancy and effectiveness to change health behaviour is what constitutes the next stage.

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