Sunday, April 19, 2009

Adapting behaviors...

My take home message from this week's readings was that in many instances focussing on "adapting behaviors" would do much good than focussing on "prevention". Of course, ideally, we should work on prevention behaviors but there are situations in which culture, structure and agency make it difficult to display the preventive behaviors. In such circumstances, an adaptive behavior makes sense. 

Lifeskills training, training to negotiate, skill building on taking the optimum decisions within the context are ways in which we promote "adaptive behaviors". Of course I am trying to connect culturally situated approaches with the "behavioral" approaches. Focussing on adaptive behaviors also has a good match with the "prediction" objective; as they are more efficient and achievable. 

Consider the oft discussed case of vegetable and fruit consumption as a cancer prevention behavior being advised to the inner city population. Here, we would not get much of an outcome in terms of actual display of the behavior as issues of structure and access come into play. At risk of sounding cultural relativist, I would also say that there are cultural issues imbued in the segment of populations related to food consumption (Ref. soul food...) which most often constitute the inner city populace. So, what do we do as health communication experts? Maybe the answer lies in promoting "adpative behaviors". But again let me make it clear that this is just a part of the whole rubric and not the solution "PILL".

My other take home message was that when I do research with vulnerable populations, I should always take care not to raise expectations..a la Susser and Stein...They got their publications and "ethnographic research" trips to exotic places and hard to reach populations..but the female condoms remained out of reach from 1992 to 1999 and still today. As researchers, scholars, practitioners, do ask...What gives..? There is not a right (desirable?) answer again and it depends on you and your priorities and level of comfort. 

Jai Ho!!

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