EVALUATION IS KEY
Integrating Behavioral Science with Injury and Violence Prevention
Traditionally, unintentional injury prevention has been addressed through environmental and product changes, such as modification of road environments or installation of automatic sprinkler systems in homes and buildings to prevent fires. Policy implementation, such as seat belt laws, has also been effective. Nevertheless, for every environmental, technological, or policy-related advance, there is a behavioral component that needs to be addressed.
- Although there are laws requiring children to wear bike helmets, children and families need to know how to obtain and wear bike helmets properly and to understand what the value of wearing a helmet is.
- There have been product updates for easier use of child passenger safety seats, as well as laws passed requiring parents to use safety and booster seats. Nevertheless, there is a need for health education to help parents become aware of what type of seat they need, how to correctly install child safety seats, and what the dangers are of placing children in the front seat of a car, near airbags.
Violence / Intentional Injury
Enforcing laws and changing environments help to both protect victims and prevent violence and suicide from occurring. While these are both useful strategies, there is a need for health education and behavior change. Intentional injury can cause physical and psychological damage to individuals and communities. Incorporating health education / behavior change as part of a comprehensive strategy for preventing violence is necessary.
- While there may be school rules against bullying and fighting, teaching children how to emotionally deal with social situations or having parents model non-aggressive behaviors will address the problem even further.
- Providing skills training for problem solving, conflict resolution and non-violent handling of disputes offers a protective factor for those at risk of suicide.
What is Health Education / Behavior Change?
Health Education is a field / social science that promotes, maintains, and improves individual and community health by teaching individuals and communities how to assume responsibility for addressing health care issues. Health Education:
- Draws from the biological, environmental, psychological, physical, and medical sciences
- Promotes health and prevents disease, disability, and premature death
- Uses theory-based voluntary behavior change activities, programs, campaigns, and research
- Converts poor health habits to health enhancing behaviors, using established theories
Behavior change does not just transpire at the individual level. Programs should:
- Address all social levels—as an ecological approach; and
- Be comprehensive, incorporating:
- Health education / behavior change
- Product and environmental change, and
- Policy change and implementation
Retrieved from Behavioral Approaches to Injury Control Conference Proceedings January 23, 2003
— Presentation by Dr. Andrea Gielen, pg. 48
Health Educators wear many hats besides educator to the public. Roles include:
- Acting as advocates to inform and persuade policy makers about supporting policies and programs to reduce and prevent injury and violence.
- Working with a community's assets and determining barriers to behavior change:
- Focusing on issues within the community and surrounding environment,
- Looking to social structures and support systems to encourage behavior change,
- Involving the community in injury and violence prevention, allowing for members to feel empowered not only to change certain behaviors, but also to promote change for the community in the future.
- Bringing together persons from multiple disciplines to address injury and violence prevention from all levels and perspectives.
- Educating the media and serving as a spokesperson on injury and violence.
- Educating other professionals, including heath care specialists, teachers, administrators, and manufacturers about injury and violence prevention.
- Conducting research and analyzing data to better understand the problem of injury and violence.
(See Schieber, RA, Gilchrist, J, Sleet, DA. Legislative and Regulatory Strategies to Reduce Childhood Unintentional Injuries. The Future of Children, Spring/Summer 2000: Vol. 10, No. 1, pg. 137-163. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Los Altos, CA. )
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