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Social and Behavioral Theories

3. Theory and Why It is Important

Both explanatory theories and change theories are rooted in an understanding of the social determinants of health and health behavior. Many social, cultural, and economic factors contribute to the development, maintenance, and change of health behavior patterns. It is now generally recognized that public health and health promotion interventions are most likely to be effective if they embrace an ecological perspective and include upstream approaches, as discussed in McKinlay’s chapter on Appropriate Research Methods. That is, interventions should not only be targeted at individuals but should also affect interpersonal, organizational, and environmental factors influencing health behavior.

Example 1

This is clearly illustrated when one thinks of the context of groups of employees purchasing food and eating during the work day.

Employees may bring their food with them from home or buy food from workplace cafeterias and vending machines. Their choices are influenced by personal preferences, habits, nutrition information, availability, cost, and placement, among other things. The process is complex and determined not only by multiple factors but by factors at multiple levels.