In the United States there seems to be a definite emphasis placed on health and healthy behavior. One has only to turn on the television or scan the local magazine newsstands to be bombarded with advertisements for weight loss diets and products, exercise machines, and a multitude of other health related items and articles. Based on the prevalence of health related products in the market there is obviously a real or perceived health need.
The Committee on Health and Behavior: Research, Practice and Policy which was composed of experts in a multitude of fields to include public policy, psychology, social work, and many different fields of medicine reviewed a multitude of research reports on health and behavior that have been published since 1982. The committee’s focus was on developments in health and behavior research encompassing biological health and psychosocial factors. (Schwab, 2003)
In terms of understanding the committee’s research and findings it may first be prudent to review some of the basic terms such as health and behavior, some of the risk factors, and to look at the ecological perspective from which the committee approached their report. The committee chose to use their ecological definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not the absence of infirmity.” (Committee, 2001)They describe a comprehensive definition of health which requires one to focus more on outcomes rather than disease pathology.
They encourage the idea that health is multidimensional and present the concept of positive health that encompasses the ideals of a healthy body, positive personal relationships, a sense of purpose, and resilience to the general turmoil of life which encompasses stress, trauma, and change. (Committee, 2001) The concept of health is sometimes defined as the baseline for the average state of the population or the complete absence of any disease and injury, or a holistic concept of general well-being.
The Committee (2001) decided to embody the term health with the meaning of positive health which highlights the evidence that attitudes and behaviors can enhance the body’s resistance to and recovery from disease, illness, and surgical intervention. Davies (2007) seems to agree with this concept of positive health saying “that health is best seen as an ongoing outcome from the continuing processes of living life well.”Living life well” would be defined in terms of wealth, relationships, coherence, fitness, and adaptability.”
The committee (2001) decided to use the term biobehavioral sciences to encompass the many and varied disciplines that contribute to overall behavior and health because it reflects the rich, dynamic, diverse and interactive nature of the disciplines contributing to the overall knowledge of health and behavior. The committee reviewed several behaviors that seem to exert a strong influence on health such as: tobacco use, alcohol abuse, physical activity and diet.
These behavioral risk factors showed a direct link between them and health. As Davies (2007) said, “health is always a temporary state of being, and this state has to be maintained and enjoyed or endured in the face of our certain knowledge of future disease and death.” It was noted that most behaviors are not randomly distributed in the general populace, but instead often occur together and follow a social pattern. Many who consume alcohol also show concurrent use of tobacco.
It was found that those who are wealthy and have good jobs follow more positive health behaviors, while those who are poor or socially isolated have more of a tendency to engage in more risky behaviors. Behavior it seems is not simply a matter of individual choice but is influenced by other social factors such as familial relationships, social relationships, and associations with other organizations such as schools and workplaces. (Committee, 2001)
Davies, P. G. (2007). BETWEEN HEALTH AND ILLNESS. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 50(3), 444-52. Retrieved July 19, 2010, from ProQuest Medical Library.(Document ID: 1318143911).
Schwab, J. J. (2003). Health and Behavior: The Interplay of Biological, Behavioral, and Societal Influences. American Journal of Psychiatry (160), 603-605.
Committee on Health and Behavior: Research, Practice and Policy, Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health (2001). Health and Behavior: The Interplay between the Biological, Behavioral, and Societal Influences. Washington, DC: National Academic Press.