It is the goal of many researchers interested in health behavior to understand both the determinants of health behaviors and the process of health behavior changes. One key route has been the development and empirical testing of Health Behavior Theory (HBT). Research in this area has implicates including (1) a better understanding of health behavior, and (2) a basis upon which interventions to improve the public health of individuals and communities can be developed and evaluated.\
Because we are conducting more research on health behaviors does not necessarily mean that we are adding substantive cumulative knowledge to this area of research. Certain models of health behavior are more accurate than others, that certain variables are more influential than others, or that certain behaviors or situations are understood better than others. In general, researchers have failed to carry out the winnowing process that is necessary for scientific progress.
What is the best way to move forward? The purpose of the current article is to offer a critique of the current direction of HBT research and to suggest a new agenda of research in this area. HBT should explain differences across situations, contexts, populations, and with regard to different behaviors. The primary focus of HBT has been at the individual level. It is not clear that significant modification of theories takes place very often and we would argue that rarely, if ever, are theories completely discarded. New theories are often introduced to explain health phenomena when it is not clear that existing theories are inadequate for explaining such phenomena. Many theories contain constructs that are very identical, but use different terminology, creating the illusion that they are different. Lack of consensus regarding what to call certain constructs has resulted in a fragmented literature that could be better integrated if a common set of terminology was agreed upon.
We should put...
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