Behaviour change

The behaviour change approach is used to bring about changes in an individual's thinking or perception. You should be able to use this method to change the behaviour of individuals within your community and help them make their own health-related decisions. This approach can be applied using locally available methods and media such as leaflets and posters.

The behaviour change approach is very broad; you will be expected to consider wider issues of health education such as individual perceptions of exposure to health risks and risky behaviour. This approach also covers the benefits an individual can gain through health practices.

Think about smoking for a moment. You'll be aware that smokers deciding whether or not to give up smoking should consider:

  • To what extent they think they are susceptible to high blood pressure (hypertension), lung cancer, social and financial consequences, and other smoking-related health problems
  • Their perception of how serious continuing to smoke may be in terms of their possible future morbidity (illness) and mortality
  • Their perception of the extent and value of the benefits of giving up smoking
  • The potential negative consequences of giving up smoking.

Hiwot is a Health Extension Practitioner. She wants to help young adolescents who are exposed to smoking in her area. How do you think she could use the behaviour change approach to health promotion outlined above to do this? What ways do you think Hiwot might use to help the young adolescents to decide whether to give up smoking or not?

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Hiwot could invite adolescents and young men who smoke to a group meeting (Figure 2.5), where several things can happen.

  • She could hold an activity such as an audiovisual presentation about the health risks associated with smoking. This would help the young adolescents to consider all these factors and then decide for themselves whether to stop smoking.
  • She could also use a discussion group after the presentation to help them explore the social aspects of smoking, why people do it and what good things they can find in giving up both now and in the future. Importantly she could also give hints and tips for actually giving up.
  • Hiwot does not smoke herself so she is also acting as a role model for the young adolescents.
  • So she uses a number of behaviour change methods: giving information, opinion-forming, and modeling healthy behaviour.

A group of men gather to listen to messages about healthcare.

Figure 2.5 If you want to deliver health education messages about a specific subject, such as smoking, it is best to gather together people who might most benefit from receiving that message. (Photo: AMREF/Thomas Somanu)
Last modified: Monday, 23 June 2014, 10:00 PM