Using Behavior-Specific Groups for Public Health Initiatives


Rather than the typical campaigns, researchers at the University of Kansas focused on developing cluster groups of specific health-related behaviors. The idea behind these groups is to provide broad interventions that can help groups rather than one on one treatments. If people who are all suffering from the same behaviors get together, they are able to provide social support for one another and it would be much easier for public health officials to reduce mortality rates due to these behaviors. These groups are likely to cause changes, and are also cost effective.  A sociology professor, Jarron Saint Onge states “it’s almost unfair to criticize that, but there is a way to open our eyes to think about multiple health behaviors. We need to move beyond the focus on negative behaviors to consider how behaviors don’t always fall on a negative-positive health continuum, but form unique behavioral niches.”

Saint Onge identified seven patterns that included smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits, and flu vaccinations. The researchers then clustered people into these groups so they can participate in activities that promote healthy lifestyles. The group settings make it easier for advocates or therapists to understand what is going wrong and help create an action plan. The groups were often found to be influenced by sex, geographic region, race, and age. The clustering style made it easier to identify health disparities within communities.

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Image Source: CDC Health Disparities Report

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