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Behavior Matters

      Abstract

      Behavior has a broad and central role in health. Behavioral interventions can be effectively used to prevent disease, improve management of existing disease, increase quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs. A summary is presented of evidence for these conclusions in cardiovascular disease/diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS as well as with key risk factors: tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption. For each, documentation is made of (1) moderation of genetic and other fundamental biological influences by behaviors and social–environmental factors; (2) impacts of behaviors on health; (3) success of behavioral interventions in prevention; (4) disease management; (5) quality of life, and (6) improvements in the health of populations through behavioral health promotion programs. Evidence indicates the cost effectiveness and value of behavioral interventions, especially relative to other common health services as well as the value they add in terms of quality of life. Pertinent to clinicians and their patients as well as to health policy and population health, the benefits of behavioral interventions extend beyond impacts on a particular disease or risk factor. Rather, they include broad effects and benefits on prevention, disease management, and well-being across the life span. Among priorities for dissemination research, the application of behavioral approaches is challenged by diverse barriers, including socioeconomic barriers linked to health disparities. However, behavioral approaches including those emphasizing community and social influences appear to be useful in addressing such challenges. In sum, behavioral approaches should have a central place in prevention and health care of the 21st century.
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