The impact of social groups and content on the maintenance of health behavior practices over a one-year period

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Gardner-Ray, Janet
McElhinney, James H.
Issue Date
Thesis (D. Ed.)
Department of Educational Leadership
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During a period from May, 1993 to July of 1993, 309 employees of a large telecommunication's company selfselected to participate in an eight-week health promotion program designed to assist them in changing health behaviors. The program participants were then surveyed at the end of one-year to determine if they had maintained the health behavior changes practiced during the eight-week program and the impact of family, friends and coworkers on the level the participant was practicing the health behavior changes at the end of one-year.A growing body of evidence suggests ongoing research in the area of health behavior change because health related medical claims, absenteeism and decreased productivity continue to have serious financial consequences for American business. In Corporate America, health education programs have been organized to give employees the opportunity to change negative health habits and replace them with positive health habits. The assumption being, that healthier employees': (1) use less medical benefits (2) report fewer absent sick days and (3) are more productive employees.In addition, prior research indicates that being part of a social network or having access to social group support can help individuals decrease the level they practice negative health habits and increase the level they practice positive health habits. Thus, an understanding of social group support on the behavior change process is important to education professionals evaluating the effectiveness of health education programs within the corporate setting.This research study was designed to examine a health promotion program offered to employees of a large telecommunication company and the impact social groups andcontent had on the level participants changed their health related behaviors. The research assumed that examining encouragement and discouragement provided by: (1) family, (2) friends, and (3) coworkers would lead to a greater understanding of the impact social groups had on the level a participant practiced health behavior changes at the end of one year.This research indicated that social group participation played a significant role in the level a program participant was practicing health behavior changes at the end of one year. The analysis further indicated that support from family and friends were significant factors in the behavioral change process.In addition, organizational support prior to and during the "Health Habits Challenge" program had no significant impact on the level participants were practicing health behavior changes at the end of one year. However, participants receiving organizational support prior to and during the "Health Habits Challenge" program perceived their health as having improved during the one-year maintenance phase, while participants who did not receive organizational support reported their health status had declined.Relationships reported by this research study are sufficiently strong enough to warrant further research both qualitative and quantitative, to provide health educators with a better understanding of how social groups and organizational content influence health behavior changes. The factors are potentially important, not only for theoretical and research purposes but also for making practice and policy decisions appropriate to health promotion and health education.