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Chapter 3

PSY333H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Periodontitis, Teachable Moment, Health Belief Model

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PSY333 Health Psychology
Chapter 3 Health Behavior and Primary Prevention
Health promotion is a general philosophy that has at its core the idea that
good health, or wellness, is a personal and collective achievement it’s the
process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their
For the individual, health promotion involves teaching developing a program
of good health habits early in life and carrying them throughout
For the medical practitioner, health promotion involves teaching people how
best to achieve this healthy lifestyle and helping people at risk to learn
behaviors to offset or monitor these risks
For the psychologist, health promotion involves the development of
interventions to help people practice healthy behaviors and change poor
Nearly half the deaths in Canada are caused by modifiable behaviors, with
smoking, poor diet and inactivity as the leading social/behavioral risk factors
Successful modification of health behaviors will reduce deaths due to
lifestyle-related disease, delay time of death (increasing longevity and life
expectancy), expand the number of years people live disease-free and help
save in the amount of money spent on treating disease
Health behaviors are behaviors undertaken by people to enhance or
maintain their health
Health habit is a health-related behavior that is firmly established and often
performed automatically, without awareness
o Habits usually develop in childhood, stabilize around 11 or 12
o Ex. Wearing a seat belt, brushing one’s teeth
The health habit may have established because of reinforcement from a
parent, but it eventually becomes maintained by environmental factors
Primary prevention means taking measures to combat risk factors for
illness before an illness ever has a chance to develop, there are 2 strategies of
primary prevention
o Employ behavior-change methods to get people to alter their
problematic health behaviors (ex. Weight loss programs)
o Keep people from developing poor health habits in the first place (ex.
Smoking prevention programs amongst adolescents)
Individual health behaviors are influences by the social, cultural, and physical
environment in which they occur
o Socio-economic factors, age, gender, values (ex. African culture
preferring fat women), personal control (health locus of control
scale measures the degree to which people perceive themselves to be
in control of their health, perceive powerful others to be in control of
their health, or regard chance as the major determinant of health),
social influence, personal goals, perceived symptom (a pain in the
throat cuts back on smoking), access to health care services, place
(rural vs. urban), cognitive factors
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PSY333 Health Psychology
Health behaviors are elicited and maintained by different factors for different
people, and these factors change over the lifetime as well as during the
course of the health habit, consequently, health habits are very difficult to
change so health habit interventions have focused heavily on those who may
be helped the most namely, the young
Health habits are strongly affects by early socialization, especially the
influence of parents as role models
The concept of a teachable moment refers to the fact that certain times are
better than others for teaching particular health practices (ex. Childhood or
after being diagnosed with an illness)
Benefits of focusing on at-risk people:
o Early identification may prevent or eliminate poor health habits that
can exacerbate vulnerability
o It’s an efficient and effective use of health promotion dollars (rather
than targeting every single person)
o Makes it easier to identify other risk factors that may interact with the
targeted factor in producing an undesirable outcome
Problems of focusing on risk:
o People can over or underreact to their risk
o Defensive and avoid screening
o Some people may react poorly
Educational appeals make the assumption that people will change their
health habits if they have correct information
o Communications should be colorful and vivid
o Communicator should be expert, prestigious, trustworthy, likeable
and similar to the audience
o Strong arguments should be presented at beginning and end of a
message, not buried in the middle
o Messages should be short, clear and direct
o Messages should state conclusions explicitly
o Extreme messages produce more attitude change, but up to a point
o For illness detection behaviors, emphasizing the problems that may
occur if it is not undertaken will be most effective
o If audience is receptive, communicate favorable points, if they’re not
then discuss both sides of the issue
Fear appeals assume that if people are fearful that a particular habit is
hurting their health, they will change their behavior to reduce their fear
According to prospect theory, different presentations of risk information
will change people’s perspectives and actions. Messages that emphasize
potential problems (loss-framed) should work better for behaviors that have
uncertain outcomes (high risk), whereas messages that stress benefits (gain-
framed) may be more persuasive for behaviors with certain outcomes (low
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