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Chapter 3

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University of Toronto St. George
Nevena Simic

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 health  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 ones  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 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 risk) PSY333 – Health Psychology o People who are approach-oriented or who seek to maximize rewards are more influences by messages that are gain-framed (e.g. “great breath, healthy gums are only a floss away”) o People who are avoidance-oriented or who seek to minimize losses are influenced by messages that are loss-framed (e.g. “floss now and avoid bad breathe and gum disease)  Social cognition models suggest that the beliefs that people hold about particular health behavior motivate their decision to change that behavior  Expectancy-value theory suggests that people will choose to engage in behaviors that they expect to succeed in and that have outcomes that they value o Ex. People are more likely to engage in behaviors such
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