Health and Society
Health behavior used to be classically defined as any activity undertaken by a person believing him/herself to be healthy for the purpose of preventing disease or detecting it at an asymptomatic stage (Kasl and Cobb, 2014). A more modern and appropriate definition would be to refer to any behaviour that influences the health of the person, whether it be health promoting or health damaging. As the GP has already outlined to the couple, the IVF process with hormone treatment is associated with behaviours such as weight gain, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. IVF is a stressful and enduring process, and women often partake in behaviours that are advised against as part of the coping mechanism. It must be clearly stated that it is not solely a person’s individual (cognitive, biological) experiences that determine a particular health behaviour. It is the interplay of numerous other factors that ultimately influences a particular health behaviour; these include social, cultural and environmental influences. All these stimuli interact and result in a set of beliefs that provides the basis for why individuals act the way they do.
The Health Belief Model (HBM) is a psychological model that attempts to explain and predict health behaviors by focusing on the attitudes and beliefs of individuals (Health Belief Model, 2014).The model encompasses ideas such as perceived susceptibility and severity of health-related behaviours, the perceived benefits and barriers, as well as cues to action.
(Rutter and Quine, 2014)
We’ll take obesity as an example of one of Yvonne’s behaviours as a result of the IVF treatment. Yvonne’s attitude towards obesity is central to the idea behind this model. Yvonne does not consider the risks of obesity to be severe enough for her to stop her eating habits. The perceived benefits of her behaviour for her outweigh the associated risks. As outlined, it allows her ‘to relax’ and to ‘carry on as normal’ and as well reduces her levels of stress. The perceived barriers therefore could be that if she stopped her eating habits that the associated stress could become overwhelming and she might become more emotionally upset.
The cycle of change, or transtheoretical model, proposes that change in health behavior involves six stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination (Prochaska and Velicer, 2014). It is apparent that the couple is at the ‘Precontemplation’ stage of the cycle, in that they have been engaging in unhealthy behaviours for the last two years and show no signs of altering their habits. The stress of the treatment has played a major role in their lifestyle habits, and as the stress is ongoing they are unlikely to readapt or start new healthier behaviours.
‘Health literacy’ refers to accessing, understanding and using information to make health decisions (Peerson and Saunders, 2009).
For Matthew and Yvonne to make the...