International Journal of Translation & Community Medicine (IJTCM)    IJCTD-2332-2926-03-002e

Moving The Field of Health Behaviour Research Forward with Genuine Application and Cross-Culture Assessment of Established Theoretical Models and Techniques

Bai Li

College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK.

*Corresponding Author

Bai Li,
College of Medical and Dental Sciences,
University of Birmingham,
Edgbaston, Birmingham, , B15 2TT, UK.

Article Type: Editorial
Received: April 19, 2015;Published: April 21, 2015

Citation: Bai Li (2015) Moving The Field of Health Behaviour Research Forward with Genuine Application and Cross-Culture Assessment of Established Theoretical Models and Techniques. Int J Translation Community Dis. 3(2e), 1-2. doi:

Copyright: Bai Li©2015. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

In this editorial, I would like to discuss two issues which are also development opportunities within the field of health behaviour research.

It is widely acknowledged that human health behaviours are influenced by a range of factors that operate and interact at both individual and environmental levels. Behavioural scientists and academics from various disciplines have attempted to identify those factors and described the relationships among them. The Environmental Research framework for weight Gain prevention (EnRG framework) [1], Ecological framework [2, 3] and the analysis grid for environments linked to obesity (ANGELO framework) [4] are just examples of established theoretical models for behavioural change or determination. Theories are useful tools created to help people understand complex issues and address the issues in a more systematic way [5]. However, even the ecological approach, a widely known theoretical model, has rarely been used in this field and for those studies that claimed to have adopted an ecological approach, none of them in fact have examined the relationships or interaction between the various influencing factors studied [6]. It’s also arguable that the increasingly popular ‘intervention mapping’ approach implies an emphasis on linear bivariate relationships between behaviour determinants as it asks users to specify each behaviour determinant and develop specific strategies to change them.

When the complex nature of health behaviours and the interactive relationship among the multi-level determinants of those behaviours are acknowledged, and when established theoretical models are present, we should direct our efforts to truly applying, testing and further developing those existing tools to move this field forward. Cross-culture assessment of those behavioural change theories (predominantly developed in western societies) in other populations are particularly needed. Open publication may facilitate development on this area by removing the financial burden associated with the traditional feepaying model of academic journal subscription or paper access among research-active readers from mid-low income countries or communities. Being able to know what behavioural theories have been developed and applied by scholars from scientifically more advanced countries would be the first step to encourage comparative or applicability testing research in non-western countries or under- studied populations.

Moreover, well established tools developed for the field of health behaviour research have not been adequately utilised in the development, delivery and evaluation of behavioural change interventions . Taking healthy lifestyle promotion as an example, while enormous resources have been spent in trials to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of behavioural change programmes in improving people’s health behaviour or health outcomes, and regardless the outcomes of those interventions, it remains unclear as to which specific intervention components (or a combination of them) contributed to the observed outcome [7]. Also, it is usually very difficult to characterise and repeat intervention programmes with promising effects. These constrain evidence synthesis, further development of previous programmes and translation of research into practice. One driver behind those challenges has been inconsistent, imprecise or inadequate reporting of intervention content by researchers . The taxonomy of behaviour change techniques [8] was developed to optimise the reporting and scientific study of behaviour change interventions by identifying and defining 40 existing behavioural change techniques. Applying and/or testing the taxonomy in designing, describing and reporting behavioural interventions should be encouraged more widely, not only by research leaders but also funders of health behavioural intervention studies as well as journals . Furthermore, since the taxonomy was developed primarily by English-speaking scholars, it might be useful to hear user feedback from non-Englishspeaking countries to inform the potential development of widely applicable versions of the taxonomy in various languages.


  1. Kremers S. P, De Bruijn G. J, Visscher T. L, Van Mechelen W, De Vries N. K, et al. (2006) Environmental influences on energy balance-related behaviors: a dual-process view. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 3(1):9.
  2. Friedman S. L, Wachs T. D (1999) Measuring environment across the life span: Emerging methods and concepts. American Psychological Association.
  3. Wachs TD (1992) The Nature of Nurture. Newbury Park: Sage.
  4. Swinburn B, Egger G, Raza F (1999) Dissecting obesogenic environments: the development and application of a framework for identifying and prioritizing environmental interventions for obesity. Preventive medicine 29(6):563-570.
  5. Blair-Stevens C, Reynolds L, Christopoulos A (2009) Behavioural theory: Understanding the key influences on human behavior. Social marketing and public health: Theory and practice 45-66.
  6. Gubbels J. S, Van Kann D. H, de Vries N. K, Thijs C, Kremers S. P (2014) The next step in health behavior research: the need for ecological moderation analyses-an application to diet and physical activity at childcare. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Ac 11: 52.
  7. Waters E, de Silva-Sanigorski A, Hall B. J, Brown T, Campbell K. J, et al. (2011). Interventions for preventing obesity in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 12(00).
  8. Michie S, Ashford S, Sniehotta F. F, Dombrowski S. U, Bishop A, et al. (2011). A refined taxonomy of behaviour change techniques to help people change their physical activity and healthy eating behaviours: the CALO-RE taxonomy. Psychology & Health 26(11):1479-1498.

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