Behavioral Change

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Many behaviors are related to health and health risks. Unprotected sexual intercourse, for example, is a behavior that puts one at risk for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and other sexually transmitted infections. Similarly, maintaining an unhealthful diet is a behavior that puts one at risk for cardiovascular disease. Many health promotion interventions seek to turn people away from risky behaviors and toward healthful behaviors, such as using condoms when having sexual intercourse and following a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Behavior change is a complex process. Positive health-related changes come about when people learn about risks and ways of enhancing health, and when they develop positive attitudes, social support, self-efficacy, and behavioral skills. Health-promoting behaviors are most usefully defined as performance objectives. For example, safe sexual practices are enhanced by practical objectives: purchasing condoms, carrying condoms, negotiating condoms, correctly applying condoms, and maintaining condom use.

Gerjo Kok

(see also: Attitudes; Behavior, Health-Related; Behavioral Determinants; Psychology, Health; Social Determinants; Social Networks and Social Support )


Bartholomew, K.; Parcel, G.; Kok, G.; and Gottlieb, N. (2001). Intervention Mapping: Developing Theory- and Evidence-Based Health Programs. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.