What it takes to get people to adopt healthier behaviors

What it takes to get people to adopt healthier behaviors

>>DEBORAH TATE: I’m Dr. Deborah Tate, and
I’m a health psychologist. You get into psychology — or at least I did
— because I wanted to help people. I’ve moved a little bit away from doing that one-on-one
to public health where we try to develop programs that can help lots more people change and
live healthier lives. We use science to understand which of the
things we’re trying is most effective. What’s amazing is that the top leading causes
of death are actually preventable. Things like cardiovascular disease, diabetes — all
those kinds of chronic illnesses are preventable or treatable if we could help people to lead
a healthier lifestyle. In psychology, we apply the same principles
of basic science to do an experiment. We develop some research questions or hypotheses and
then we develop an intervention and apply an experimental design where you rigorously
control for factors. I study two things — strategies for improving
weight loss and how we can use technology to adapt face-to-face programs that are proven
to be effective, put them online, and get them out to more people. Young adults in the U.S. are gaining, on average,
30 pounds between the time they’re 18 and 35. Young adults are also starting to have
cardiovascular disease, markers or risk factors like higher blood pressure, and cholesterol
problems earlier than prior generations. We follow them with technology, so we’re using
websites, cellphones, mobile web or texting to have them keep tabs on their weight. And
there’s a program behind the scenes that gives them suggestions or gives them feedback. Then we have a lot of data. And so we try
to put all that together and unpack what happened and tell a story, not only on whether it worked
or didn’t work, but how it worked. It’s fun because you get to ask questions
and then see whether your predictions are right or wrong. And you get to think about
puzzles and complex relationships. And what’s more interesting than humans and behavior
and all those things that are part of what we are, but also can be applied to major real
world problems like health. What I love about my work is that in science
you can actually observe the results. We have measurable, more objective parameters so we
can see how much weight someone lost. You can see how much those programs affect
people. When someone loses weight and starts to feel better and tells you that they can
climb the steps without getting out of breath and they can play with their kids — it makes
you feel really good that that program that you worked so hard on made them feel so much
better about themselves. The work that I do is an example of science
in action because we take the underlying principles from psychology and we take the scientific
method and we try to solve real world problems.

1 thought on “What it takes to get people to adopt healthier behaviors

  1. Interesting video by the American Psychological Association on health adoption featuring the COSMED BOD POD #health #psychology  

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