Challenging Dogma - Fall 2009

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Transtheoretical Model is Making Small Step Campaign Have a Small Impact: A Critique Based on . . .

. . . Social Marketing and Integrated Theory of Health Behavior Change – Annie Peer

For a limited time only the price to get you 640 calories and 39 grams of fat will get you double - nearly 1300 calories and 80 grams of fat! Soon you too will be on your way to craving this many calories at every meal until you are in the “select” group of 72 million Americans in the obesity club. (1). If Burger King advertised their new buy one Original Chicken Sandwich and get one free offer in this way, obesity would not be such an issue as it is in America today. Instead Burger King focuses on people getting people what they want, how they want it, and with bigger portions than they imagined. The sandwich is described as being “unchanged since 1979, which no other burger can say” and “not a handful but a handsful”. Even the website allows the consumer to decide how much food, fun, and king images they want on the main menu as seen below:
Figure 1
This is what public health intervention against obesity is up against. “Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable premature death in this country, with some researchers predicting it may soon outpace smoking as the leading cause of preventable death. A solution will likely be multi-faceted, with emphases on prevention, improvements in treatments, policy change, and environmental changes, among others” (1). One attempt to make exercise and healthy living more “do-able” is the Small Step campaign that was started by the government. This makes exercise look easy by just getting into the habit of small changes everyday that will make you healthier such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Using the six-stage behavior change theory (transtheoretical model) to plan their approach, researchers determined that the public is aware of the dangers of obesity but remains complacent about it (has yet to take action, see rewards from doing so, and commit to ongoing change). Why? Because people want a quick-fix in modern life and none of the promised "quick-fix" diet plans actually work, so consumers have concluded that it's impossible to get healthy.
The transtheoretical model shows the six stages that a person must pass through to achieve behavioral change:
Emotional Arousal/Interest
Reward/Positive Reinforcement
Self Liberation/On-going Commitment to Change
Critique 1 – Transtheoretical Model Does Not Account for Everyone
The primary use of the transtheoretical model is the first mistake this campaign makes. This model “integrates two interrelated dimensions of change, stages of change and processes of change, along with the constructs of self-efficacy and decisional balance. Stages of change represent when an individual is ready to change. Self-efficacy refers to the conviction that one can successfully execute the behavior required to produce the desired outcomes, and decisional balance encompasses the pros and cons or perceived benefits and barriers of making the change” (3). The stages of change reflect a person’s intention to change or the degree to which a person gives serious consideration to change. Individuals may progress through stages at varying rates, may regress, and may reenter the continuum of change at carrying points.
Cons to the physical exercise model showed that “precontemplators” see physical activity as having nearly as much cost as it has benefits and score highest on the cons of engaging in physical activity. (3). A study by Marcus, et al. (4) found that, similar to self-efficacy, pros and cons of physical activity were related to physical activity behavior only indirectly. The pros and cons constructs were related to stage of physical activity readiness (intention), and stage of physical activity readiness served as the mediator influencing actual physical activity patterns. Compared to individuals who were not regularly physically active, individuals who engaged in regular physical activity used physical activity to cope with unpleasant emotions such as stress and fatigue, rewarded themselves for engaging in physical activity, made a commitment to be physically active, and employed reminders to be physically active. Furthermore, these regularly active individuals had more confidence in their ability to be physically active and placed greater emphasis on the benefits of being physically active. It appears that those who were not physically active had less confidence in their ability to be physically active and perceived the barriers to engaging in physical activity as outweighing the benefits. (3).
Transtheoretical Model posits that decisional balance, self-efficacy and processes of change are the most important stage transition determinants. (5). The evidence for the importance of these constructs is mostly based on cross-sectional data and more convincing evidence based on longitudinal data or experimental research is mostly lacking.
Critique 2- Food Ads Dominate in Exposure Time over Small Campaign
The fact that unhealthy food advertisements are dominant and result in fatter people is the second critique. Small Steps’ handful of ads and website isn’t nearly enough to counteract the pervasiveness of advertisements for unhealthy food -- particularly for teens. A study (6) found that fast-food restaurant advertisements were found to make up 23.1% of all food ads seen by adolescents (21.5% and 23.6% for African-American and white teens respectively), and McDonald’s and Burger King advertisements made up approximately 44% of fast-food ads seen by teens. Sweets and beverages ads counted for 22% and 17% of all food ads, respectively, while cereal ads made up 11%.

Figure 2 shows the distribution of the advertisements seen by a group of adolescents in a study done by Powell et al. (6).
Food advertising that promoted snacking, fun, happiness and excitement (i.e., the majority of children’s food advertisements) directly contributed to increased food intake. In addition, these effects occurred regardless of participants’ initial hunger. (7). Furthermore, the amount of calories consumed by the participants after viewing snack advertisements was completely dissociated with the adults’ reported hunger. This was particularly true for men and those attempting to diet. (7). In addition, the effects persisted after the viewing session.
It is not even as simple as restricting television advertising of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods… one study (8) proposed a food marketing defense model that posits four necessary conditions to effectively counter harmful food marketing practices: awareness, understanding, ability and motivation to resist. While it is extremely complicated and involved to control the effect of advertising, is it suggested here under the understanding category, to propose a way to effectively market foods and healthy behaviors is a way to defend against food marketing. The way to successfully achieve this will be discussed later in the improved intervention. Psychological theories predict that food marketing, in all its forms, has a profound negative impact on public health among young people and adults. Similarly they predict that proposals by the food industry, such as increased marketing of “better for you” foods or the inclusion of physical activity in food advertising, would not even begin to counteract these effects, and could make them worse. (8).
Critique 3- Health Belief Model Does Not Account For Social And Environmental Factors
The last critique is that the website is based on the health belief model and that people just need education to adopt a healthier lifestyle. This idea of the public simply needing information about nutrition is very wrong. A study (9) showed that providing calorie information at the point-of-purchase on a fast food restaurant menu had little effect on food selection and consumption among a sample of adolescents and adults who eat regularly at fast food restaurants.
Even when people are familiar with a specific risk, social norms and support play a huge role in a campaign’s success. When looking at diabetes prevention in Latino and other racial/ethnic populations (10) they found that integrating cultural factors into prevention interventions involves a proactive analysis of the needs of a specific cultural sub-group, and of how specific cultural factors (perceptions, attitudes, skills in self-regulation, family obligations, low social supports for a healthy lifestyle, etc.) may operate as personal or cultural barriers (or a facilitators) of sustained behavior change.
Broad contextual factors found that cultural influence included aspects of the built environment, as well as local norms and national policies that influence lifestyle choices. Consideration of these factors may augment cultural sensitivity, ideally facilitating program participation and thus enhancing the efficacy of interventions designed to change dietary and exercise behaviors. The Small Step program’s website focuses on educating the public about nutrition, while social norms and individual environments are not addressed.
The consumeR Campaign
The “consumeR” campaign will show how consumerism in America has made Americans fat. The blame for being fat will be placed on the companies’ campaigns to manipulate people into eating more thereby making them more money. This campaign will have people rebelling against fast-food by creating their own independent thoughts. The person that is a member of this “I am not a consumeR” web group will live up to this rebellious title according to the labeling theory. The R in consumeR will always be capitalized to emphasize that resisting consumption at these types of establishments relates to the second part of the campaign called “Reality check”. The “Reality” will take people behind big business to have people question the messages behind the ads and why they are getting bigger sizes or second hamburgers for free.
Since public health campaigns do not typically have large budgets, the considerable amount of the influential food advertisements would be combated by this rebellion against big food companies. Additionally, a website will be made where people can sign up for text messages to motivate them to exercise and stay away from fast-food. A section of the website will be a forum where members can post a ridiculous ad put out by companies designed to get them to eat more. When told that these companies are trying to get the consumers to not think and just be followers, they will rebel.
Solution 1- Segmentation to Appeal to Each Segment of the Population
Since the Small Step campaign does not appeal to “precontemplators”, the new campaign will take into account that all people need to be healthy and will use a variety of mediums to appeal to a diverse population. Developing interventions that are indeed stage-matched requires knowledge about important and modifiable stage transition determinants…making specific action plans may help people to turn their intentions into health promoting action. (5). The Transtheoretical model used in Small Step does not account for all people. It assumes that everyone watching is at point of being willing to make the changes necessary to live a healthier lifestyle.
There are nearly 66% of Americans who are overweight and they do not form a homogeneous group - attitudes, demographic characteristics and lifestyle choices vary greatly within this subset of the US population. (11). Segmentation theory tells us that a “one size fits all” approach to marketing social change may not meet the needs of all people. Further, marketing research has revealed the importance and effectiveness of tailoring messages and incentives to meet the needs of different population segments. Social marketing is defined as “a social change campaign organized by a group which intends to persuade others to accept, modify or abandon certain ideas, attitudes, practices or behavior” (11). Just as the “truth” campaign was able to appeal to the teens’ need for a feeling of independence and rebellion using the social marketing theory against smoking (11), this new campaign for obesity prevention will target different segments too. While overweight adults will primarily be the television ad viewers, teens and kids will be more into the website design. Looking at the following screen shots of the facts pages on the “truth” and “Small Step” campaign, it is easy to see which one is more appealing to teens.

Figure 3


Figure 4
Another way to appeal to more people is through the use of more technology. A study (12) found that text messages were shown to be highly effective and used in several ways: to promote interaction with the intervention, send motivational messages (e.g., reminders of the benefits of exercise), challenge dysfunctional beliefs, or provide a cue to action. Use of communicative functions, especially access to an advisor to request advice, also tended to be effective. It may be that, although the Internet provides a suitable medium for delivering interventions, personal contact via email, online, or text message helps to support behavior change.
Solution 2- Marketing Healthy Behaviors
Social marketing of health behavior change posit that educational interventions may help to improve motivation to change, but that better opportunities for healthy behavior are needed to move people to action. (13). Findings suggest that in contexts like physical activity, condom use and recycling, negative messages about non-enactment will be inherently less efficient than positive messages about enactments. In contrast, in substance abuse-related contexts, the use of positive messages will be inherently less efficient than negative messages due to the negated linguistic form of the target, anchoring concepts denoting non-enactment. (13). While the consumeR campaign with not directly focus on physical activity and labeling people with being active, it will focus on encouraging people to not fall prey to big food chain advertisements by thinking for themselves.
One possible solution to the inefficiency problem is to utilize affirmative brand names to anchor associations with non-enactment concepts. A predominate example of this strategy is “truth” campaign, which was intended to establish “truth” as an aspirational nonsmoking brand. (14). Teens’ social images of smoking (e.g., promoting the appeal of nonsmoking as a way of achieving a desired personal image of independence or rebelliousness) appears to be a useful framework within which to understand intended campaign effects. Evaluation of the campaign’s effectiveness suggests that “truth” has affected social imagery about nonsmoking, achieved high brand equity among its target audience, and contributed to reduced rates of smoking initiation. (15). In other words, blame company instead of yourself.
The campaign should have people revolting against the ridiculousness of unhealthy food commercials since they have been shown to increase food consumption. Therefore, the campaign that sells exercise, as way for people to maintain their freedom and youth will be successful because it focused not on the product but on the desires of the audience. Key core ideals that people do not want taken away include youthfulness and freedom.
Solution 3 – Social Support and Environment Addressed
To assist people working to live healthier lifestyles, the Integrated Theory of Health Behavior change has been found (16) to be helpful. The ITBC is an integration of past successes and makes substantive contributions to understanding health behavior by combining knowledge and beliefs, self-regulation processes, and social facilitation. According to this theory, persons will be more likely to engage in the recommended health behaviors if they have information about and embrace health beliefs consistent with behavior, if they develop self-regulation ability to change their behavior, and if they experience social facilitation that positively influences and supports their engagement in preventative health behaviors.
Knowledge and belief systems impact behavior-specific self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, and goal congruence. Self-regulation is the process used to change health behavior and includes activities such as goal setting, self-monitoring and reflective thinking, decision making, planning for and engaging in specific behaviors, and self-evaluation and self-managing physical, emotional, and cognitive responses associated with health behavior change. Social facilitation includes the concepts of social influence, social support, and negotiated collaboration between individuals and families and healthcare professionals.
Figure 5: Integrated Theory of Health Behavior Change (16).
Another study found that one of the strongest correlations with a child’s BMI was a parent’s BMI. (17). Since the environment in America is so commercialized with a heavy emphasis on food, the social norms and environment must be accounted for in obesity intervention. Although altering American social regarding fast-food will not be an easy task, a website that challenges these norms will be a good start. Members will be a part of a rebellious group going up against food companies that prey on their vulnerabilities.
Competing against huge corporations that have succeeded in controlling the emotions of a majority of Americans is a difficult task. However, the “consumeR” campaign will draw attention to unnoticed unhealthy behaviors by highlighting the absurdity of food advertisements. Social support is given through a fun and resourceful website with forums and text/email motivation. The “consumeR” campaign will draw attention to the lack of thought that Americans put into food and exercise choices. The campaign’s revelation that people are merely blind consumers getting tricked into making harmful personal choices by the advertisements of multibillion-dollar food companies will motivate rebellion. Furthermore, allowing people who never considered themselves as unhealthy - merely because they are not obese- to think differently, will be a huge benefit in setting them on healthier paths and preventing a worsening obesity epidemic in America.

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