Changing health behavior is dependent on how you talk to people.
However, I recently came across an interesting post which highlighted a particular methodology to consider.
Stephen Wilkins, a former healthcare executive and researcher, highlights the work of Marshall Becker, PhD.
Becker’s Health Belief Model says four things must be in place for behavior to change:
- A person has to know that they have a particular health condition.
- A person has to believe that having said health condition is bad.
- A person must perceive the benefits of behavior change to outweigh the difficulties of behavior change.
- There must be a “call to action” to spark the change.
Wilkins uses this model to explain a common issue with obesity. Research shows the vast majority of obese people believe they are merely overweight. And unfortunately, more than 60 percent of “technically obese” adults have never been told by a doctor that they are truly obese and must change their behavior.
If that’s true, I have to agree with Wilkins’s assessment:
Poor physician-patient communication enables obesity…and probably many other chronic conditions
The evidence shows that patients who receive physician counseling about weight loss are up to 2 times more likely to report that they are currently trying to lose weight. Yet such conversations reportedly do not occur in some two-thirds of physician visits by obese patients.
Physicians may not see themselves as competent weight-loss counselors, they may question treatment effectiveness, and they may not feel their patients are sufficiently motivated to lose the weight.
“Physicians have a lot more influence with patients than they seem to give themselves credit for. If patients have a health problem, they expect their physician to tell them,” Wilkins says.
One has to wonder how many patients suffer needlessly from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. simply because their physicians did not take the time to walk them through the four steps of the Health Belief Model.
If this is the case, shouldn’t we as marketers recommit to fostering better patient-doctor communication? We have more tools at our disposal than ever before to improve the process. I’d love to hear about strategies that are working for your organization.