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Social and Behavioral Theories

2. Introduction


A growing body of evidence suggests that interventions developed with an explicit theoretical foundation or foundations are more effective than those lacking a theoretical base and that some strategies that combine multiple theories and concepts have larger effects.

The most successful public health programs and initiatives are based on an understanding of health behaviors and the context in which they occur. Therefore, interventions to improve health behavior can be best designed with an understanding of relevant theories of behavior change and the ability to use them skillfully.

The science and art of using health behavior theories reflect an amalgamation of approaches, methods, and strategies from social and health sciences. This broad range of perspectives from social and behavioral sciences are referred to “social and behavioral science theory” throughout this chapter. Influential work draws on the theoretical perspectives, research, and practice tools of such diverse disciplines as psychology, sociology, social psychology, anthropology, communications, nursing, economics, and marketing.