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Applying Theory to Practice and Research

Abstract

Public health is all about promoting good health within the communities. Theories of behavioral science are paramount in assisting the public health workers to evaluate health hazards, highlight life threatening social practices, educate the people on the need to promote good health, and formulate disease-control interventions. The Theory of Reasoned Action, the Theory of Planned Behavior, the Health Belief Model, and the Trans-Theoretical Stages of Change theory are behavioral theories that play an important role in the public health sector. The theories generally assist the healthcare officials to inform the communities about the consequences of their ill behaviors to their health statuses. The theories form foundations that the health workers can use to assist the people to make logical decisions that influence their well being and good health within the societies.

Introduction

The public health practice involves some organized attempts to enhance the human health in the communities through knowledge acquisition and practice enhancement. Public health workers use theories to assist them in enhancing the public healthcare practice, improve disease control practices, and enhance morality in the practice (Glanz & Bishop, 2012). Some common theories used in the public health include, the Theory of Reasoned Action, the Theory of Planned Behavior, the Health Belief Model, and the Trans-Theoretical Stages of Change theory (Orr, Thrush, & Plaut, 2013). These four widely used theories in the public health sector often help people to understand what influences and motivates the people to change their perceptions and behaviors on issues that concern the public health (Glanz, Rimer, & Viswanath, 2008). This essay discusses the aforementioned theories, how they apply in practice, some of their strengths, and some of their limitations.

Theory of Reasoned Action

The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) stipulates that human behaviors result from certain intentions developed towards the intended actions. According to Krause, Croft, and James (2007), the theory has three major constructs that comprise of the behavioral intentions of individuals, the attitudes of the individuals, and the subjective norm, which involves the normative beliefs and the motivational aspect of a behavior. Application of the theory in the public health-The theory helps practitioners to analyze demographic issues, attitude problems, problems of personality, and other personal variables that influence the health outcomes or health practices (Orr et al., 2013). The Strengths of the theory– First, the variables of behavioral change in the theory of reasoned action are empirically justifiable in the medical practice. Secondly, the theory has genuine variables that researchers and scientists can validate through computational instantiation. Limitations- the theory fails to address the impact of social influence and education on the people’s behaviors.

The Health Belief Model

The Health Belief Model (HBM) is a model of health behavior change that focuses on the behaviors of the people with a special consideration to the individual’s estimation of the risks and benefits associated with certain actions (Orr et al., 2013). This theory helps people to make informed decisions about certain actions to avoid hazards. Its application in the public health practice– Rawlett (2011) states that the theory helps practitioners to advise people on how to evaluate certain health risks within certain healthcare practices. Strengths- firstly, the theory supports the notion of avoiding ill practices that predispose people to risks. Secondly, it enables people to act with moral uprightness (Rawlett, 2011). Limitations-people are risk takers. The theory fails to explain how risk takers can avoid harm. Secondly, ­the theory lacks scientific evidence to unearth the health risk complexities.

The Theory of Planned Behavior

The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) is a form of a behavioral change theory that associates the beliefs of the people with certain behaviors. The theory believes that some actions are deliberate, intentional, or planned. TPB in the public health practice– public health officials understand that some health complications result from deliberate human actions (Topa & Moriano, 2010). In promoting good health, the public health workers use this theory to help people understand the risky lifestyle behaviors such as drug abuse, prostitution, and violence, which predispose them to health risks (Topa & Moriano, 2010). Strengths– firstly, the TPB model can highlight the non-preferential behaviors that other models can hardly identify. Secondly, the theory helps practitioners to investigate the social behaviors of people easily. Limitations- TPB ignores emotional variables that are very vital (Southey, 2011). Moreover, some cognitive variables highly affect the TPB model.

The Trans-Theoretical Stages of Change Theory

The theory of Trans-Theoretical Stages of Change or the trans-theoretical model (TTM) is a behavioral change theory that believes in the perception that, “long-term changes in health behavior involve multiple actions and adaptations over time” (Glanz & Bishop, 2010, p. 402). Application of TTM in the medical practice– the public health workers use the TTM model to access the medical history of patients, how the health of the individuals fluctuates with time, and how the social life of the people influences the health outcomes (Davies & McDowall, 2006). The Strengths– the theory is simple and understandable for the health practitioners who have interests to investigate behavioral changes in people. Secondly, the TTM model relates well with other behavioral change theories (Glanz & Bishop, 2010). Limitations- individual’s behaviors are complex and practitioners can barely predict them. Secondly, the TTM model is complex and it lacks practicable foundations.

The Selected theory for a Public Health Campaign

The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) creates a logical foundation for the people to take caution against the actions or practices that predispose people to ill- health (Southey, 2011). A good medical care in the public health begins with a disease-free campaign. Promoting good health in public health requires an effective understanding and application of the theory of reasoned action, which urges people to take precautions to reduce or eliminate the risks of contracting diseases (Topa & Moriano, 2010). The best way to promote good health in public health is to ensure that the people understand health hazards, and the means to avoid them. In a public health campaign, the TRA behavioral model can provide the health practitioners and the people with an opportunity to cooperate and counter the spread of serious diseases before they manifest within the populations.

Conclusion

Behavioral science theories are often important in assisting the public health workers to design health care interventions, reduce the spread of infectious diseases, and promote good health among the risky populations. The Theory of Reasoned Action, the Theory of Planned Behavior, the Health Belief Model, and the Trans-Theoretical Stages of Change theory are equally vital in the public health sector. These theoretical models provide the health practitioners with opportunities to encourage the people to promote good health, to practice good hygiene, to avoid health-threatening actions, and to embrace logical decisions that support good health amongst themselves. Concerning their influence in the public health campaigns, the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) is suitable because it allows public health workers to teach the populations on how to avert health risks.

References

Davies, M., & McDowall, W. (2006). Understanding Public Health: Health Promotion Theory. London, United Kingdom: Open University Press.

Glanz, K., & Bishop, D. (2010). The Role of Behavioral Science Theory in Development and Implementation of Public Health Interventions. Annual Review of Public Health, 31(2), 399–418.

Glanz, K., Rimer, B., Viswanath, K. (2008). Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice. London: John Wiley & Sons.

Krause, J., Croft, D., & James, R. (2007). Social network theory in the behavioral sciences: potential applications. Behavioral Ecology and Socio-biology, 62(2), 15–27.

Orr, M., Thrush, R., & Plaut, D. (2013). The Theory of Reasoned Action as Parallel Constraint Satisfaction: Towards a Dynamic Computational Model of Health Behavior. PLOS one, 8(3), 1-11.

Rawlett, K. (2011). Analytical Evaluation of the Health Belief Model and the Vulnerable Populations Conceptual Model Applied to a Medically Underserved, Rural Population. International Journal of Applied Science and Technology, 1(2), 15-21.

Sallis J., & Glanz K. (2009). Physical activity and food environments: solutions to the obesity epidemic. Milbank Quarterly, 87(1), 123–135.

Southey, G. (2011). The Theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior Applied to Business Decisions: A Selective Annotated Bibliography. Journal of New Business Ideas & Trends, 9(1), 43-50.

Topa, G., & Moriano, J. (2010). Theory of planned behavior and smoking: Meta-analysis and SEM model. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 2010(1), 23-33.

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