The Transtheoretical Model And Setting Goals

There’s a good article in Time (9/17/12) called “Goal Power” by Dr. Oz.  I found it interesting on a few fronts.

“Getting people to make meaningful changes in their lives is much more complicated than explaining to them what to eat for dinner, how often to exercise and which kinds of tests they should get from their doctors.  The psychology of health is every bit as complex as the biology, and to create seismic shifts in behavior, we have to probe the subconscious.”

1. The topic of goals and objectives and their importance relative to healthcare behavior change is a repeating theme.

  • A month ago, I was at a presentation by Dr. Victor Strecher who founded HealthMedia.  He was talking about the importance of getting people to articulate their goals or objectives for changing.  (E.g., I want to become healthy to see my daughter get married.)
  • I had a pharmacy client who was looking into this as part of an adherence program a few years ago.

2. The topic of behavior change and behavioral economics has been a very popular theme with Nudge and many other publications and programs over the past few years.

3. Obesity, which is part of the focus of his article, is widely becoming recognized as the greatest public healthcare challenge of the 21st century.  And, it is a very complex issue tied to sleep, stress, social network, and many other factors.

4. He introduces the transtheoretical model (also known as the Prochastka model or the Stages of Change), which is widely known in the academic and health areas, into the public domain which surprised me.

(Here’s the abstract from what one widely quoted paper on this.)

The transtheoretical model posits that health behavior change involves progress through six stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. Ten processes of change have been identified for producing progress along with decisional balance, self-efficacy, and temptations. Basic research has generated a rule of thumb for at-risk populations: 40% in precontemplation, 40% in contemplation, and 20% in preparation. Across 12 health behaviors, consistent patterns have been found between the pros and cons of changing and the stages of change. Applied research has demonstrated dramatic improvements in recruitment, retention, and progress using stage-matched interventions and proactive recruitment procedures. The most promising outcomes to data have been found with computer-based individualized and interactive interventions. The most promising enhancement to the computer-based programs are personalized counselors. One of the most striking results to date for stage-matched programs is the similarity between participants reactively recruited who reached us for help and those proactively recruited who we reached out to help. If results with stage-matched interventions continue to be replicated, health promotion programs will be able to produce unprecedented impacts on entire at-risk populations.

5. He references two of the big studies that looked at social pressure an its influence on health.  Something that peer-to-peer healthcare and social network tools can create for us by developing support communities and “buddies” to support our change.

  • 2012 study in the journal Obesity about weight loss.
  • 2008 study in the NEJM about smoking

6. He references Dr. Nicholas Chrisakis who co-authored the book Connected which is being manifest in the company called Activate Networks.

Overall, for those of us that work in the healthcare field, these are all critical topics that we constantly talk about.  It’s nice to see it brought to the “popular press”.

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