An Elusive Formula: The IT Role in Behavior Change in Public Health

An Elusive Formula: The IT Role in Behavior Change in Public Health

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-985-9.ch022
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One approach to understanding transformative learning is to see it as a strong shift in basic understandings that changes how an individual and people interact with each other and the world; ultimately, this culminates in the power to make positive changes—to promote self-actualization and social justice. Change occurs in a multi-step process—from becoming aware of one’s own thinking and actions, to understanding a need for positive change, and then developing the skills, emotional readiness, and tools to make those changes. This may involve the institutionalization of that change through habituation. The ability to create change through online learning and information technology has implications for many knowledge domains. This chapter summarizes some of the research and practices in behavior change technologies in public health. An inductive argument will be made for some design approaches to the use of IT for behavior change in public health, a critical issue of social justice and equity.
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An Elusive Formula: The It Role In Behavior Change In Public Health

That ability for individual and societal change is especially relevant in public health, which has wide-ranging implications for generations in terms of well being and longevity, and the public good of cost-savings, environmental health, and productive citizens. The role of information technology (IT) in promoting healthy change has been growing with creative simulations, sensor networks for rich awarenesses, technological adoptions, the design and implementation of behavior change devices, and the popularization of social networking technologies.

Transformational Learning

Transformative learning, drawing from Mezirow’s meta-theoretical Transformative Learning Theory (1990, 1991, 2000), focuses on rational sense-making, and from that knowledge, critically reflecting, conducting reflective discourse, and then taking action (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 321). In the social realm, transformational learning may promote social justice and change (Freire, 1970s, as cited in Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 324). Change may be highly personal and idiosyncratic, and may involve extra-rational factors such as emotions, intuition, personality, relationships, and culture. Transformational online education in public health seems to be quite piecemeal and to be applied in unique and disparate contexts. Forming a more coherent overall strategy may offer more gains in terms of human behavior modification.

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