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Boston University School of Public Health / Department of Community Health Sciences

Use of Social Science in Public Health

Social and behavioral sciences provide public health professionals with a conceptual framework for understanding the cause of health problems.  Most public health issues are rooted in an individual's beliefs, attitudes, and ultimately behaviors.  The structure utilized for solving these issues is based on social and behavioral models and theories.  These models and theories drive all public health programs from international health programs to local community based programs.  It is through studying these theories, models, and the social sciences that I have gained valuable skills in analyzing the scope of public health problems, planned effective interventions, and measured the efficacy of those interventions.

While these theories and models are based on research it is important to understand that effective programs rarely draw from one theory.  It is also important to know the basics of multiple theories in order to utilize necessary components in creating the most effective public health intervention, and in tailoring messages to the target population in order to instill a change in behavior.  Public health interventions take place on multiple levels (individual, interpersonal, community, organizational) and it is important to keep in mind who you are communicating with and what will interest them.

The program critique I submitted for the Intro to Social and Behavioral Sciences (SB721) class was for the "Human Sexuality- Values and Choices: A Values-Based Curriculum for 7th and 8th Grades."  This intervention was created by the Program Archive on Sexuality, Health, and Adolescence (PASHA), which is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Adolescent Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.  The intervention applies Fishbein's Behavioral Intention Model (similar to Health Belief Model and Theory of Planned Behavior), it argues that an action such as the decision to have sex, results from an individual's intention to act. In my critique, included to the right, I discuss the pros and cons of this campaign. It was criticized in a review by Planned Parenthood as disseminating out-of-date information and not covering all forms of contraceptives.   Due to a lack of program information, the assessment of the program was limited.

Values and Choices Intervention Critique

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