Thursday, April 8, 2010

Updates on Class

You know, if I didn't have class and classwork, I'd have a lot more time to blog about class. The semester is drawing to a close - I'm done with all the reading and am concentrating on my second paper.

My first paper was about cognitive dissonance and handwashing among health care workers, inspired in part by my first post in which I thought about behaviors that should not be affected by issues of access. At that point, inequity and inequality of access were a more major part of my understanding of poor health outcomes and unhealthy behaviors. During this semester, I've developed a more sophisticated and I think more accurate understanding of these issues.

What I ended up discussing in my paper, in part, was the idea that it is often difficult or impossible to know why it is that people fail to do healthly behaviors or participate in unhealthy behaviors. I proposed an intervention that attempts to circumvent this problem by making the health behavior a desirable activity for reasons unrelated to its health value, and instead tying it to a person's self-concept.*

Writing the paper was hard - it's been a few years since my last academic paper, and I really want to make a good impression in this class. I think I made a strong case within the confines of my chosen subject, but in truth the intervention I suggested probably isn't a very good idea. Oh well.

Now I'm very excited about the next paper, which is much longer. The assignment is to critique a public health intervention on the basis of the social/behavioral theories covered in class and propose changes to the intervention that would make it more effective. I've chosen to write about text4baby. Text4baby is a mobile-phone based intervention that aims to reduce the rates of premature birth and infant mortality by providing information to pregant women and new mothers via text message.  What's novel about this intervention is (pretty much only) the delivery method.  The aforementioned problems are worse among lower-income and minority women, and mobile phone use among those groups is higher than internet use. So the idea is to meet these women in a medium they use and are comfortable with, and provide them with helpful information that way. There are things I like about this intervention, but I also didn't find it too hard to come up with the required three criticisms. Well, I usually don't have a hard time being critical, so there's that, too.

*I'm using this term in the way it was used in the cognitive dissonance literature, which I don't think is very widely accepted. It's something like: a person's belief that s/he is moral, competent, and able to predict his/her own behavior.

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