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The Context of Health Behavior

Posted on December 2, 2011

Yonette Thomas examines the impact of context on perceptions of health and health behaviors.


You know, we talk about where people live and the context within which they live, not realizing that that also impacts how people view health behavior, particularly if you think of drug abuse. A child growing up in an environment where drugs are on the street, they've seen drugs used at home, marijuana smoked or whatever, it's... it becomes normal. It's nothing unusual. Or even the selling of drugs. That seems, too, like a normal behavior. So these things impact in many behavioral outcomes.

But I have to say that anthropologists have long known this. They've long studied people's context by looking at culture and not just simply looking at culture but culture in place and people from certain geographic regions and areas, how they looked at the treatment of disease and ailments in their particular group, tribe, block, community. They've long looked at this, but it's taken epidemiology and I think public health, in general, much longer to absorb that kind of thinking. So you talk to our friends in anthropology and sociology, they say, "Well, we knew this all along. We always talked about this."

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Excerpted from an interview with the researcher conducted at the 2011 NHSN Conference held in Miami, FL.


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