The Health Belief Model
The Health Belief Model is a great example of how content can be so powerful in driving healthy behaviour change. Whether it is increasing physical activity, saving money, healthy eating, or practicing mindfulness, educational content helps to facilitate the transferral of knowledge from healthcare professionals and experts to the consumer.
According to the model, health-related knowledge feeds into self-efficacy: which refers to expectations about one’s ability to do the behaviour. If they feel it is worthwhile for their health and that they are capable of executing it, they are more likely to perform the behaviour. Over time, this results in the improved health outcomes that the individual learned about in the first place.
So, for example, if a person is provided with content on the health benefits of engaging in 30 minutes of brisk walking everyday such that it reduces stress levels, lowers blood sugar, and improves heart health, they now have this health-related knowledge. They might consider whether this is feasible and decide that they are capable of walking 30 minutes to work every day instead of driving. Making this a habit over time then leads to the aforementioned improved health outcomes. But if we take a step back – one vital determinant for people to understand the content is adequate health literacy.
According to Sorensen et al. (2012), health literacy:
“entails people’s knowledge, motivation, and competence to access, understand, appraise, and apply health information in order to make judgements and decisions in everyday life concerning healthcare, disease prevention, and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course.”
So, health outcomes really do improve as health literacy advances – but it’s not always easy. There are constant challenges from limited technology and reading skills to misleading and biased information online. Both the employer and the content providers can play a crucial role in addressing these hurdles. A growing body of research indicates that limited health literacy can actually lead to adverse health outcomes. For example, research indicates that between one-third to one-half of all adults struggle with health literacy – and 87% of people need help with health-related information.
The same goes for financial literacy. A meta-analysis of 126 impact evaluation studies found that financial education significantly impacts financial behaviour.
Advances in technology mean that individuals can accesshealth-related information and content wherever, whenever they want. With modern health solutions and apps, employers can support their employees regardless of their geographic location. This removes physical barriers that traditionally impeded access to healthcare support and resources and allows for a more equal workplace that supports employees across the globe.
There is an increasing number of individuals downloading and using health-related apps to inform themselves on health and wellbeing related advice and content. According to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence Data, there were 290 million downloads of Health and Fitness apps in Europe in 2021. Further, in recent research by Benefex, we assessed over 1,600 employees regarding their use of digital health and wellbeing apps. We found that while employees use a variety of apps to support their health and wellbeing, the most commonly reported shortcoming of these apps was cost. In today’s economic crisis, spending 15 pound or euro a month on a wellbeing app is putting extra financial pressure on already stressed-out individuals. Employers can support their employees with this financial burden by providing them with the health and wellness apps they want to access, but may not necessarily be able to afford.
While it is vital that health-related content is evidence-based, it should be delivered in layman terms. The content provider should deliver health-related advice so that it is easy to digest and understand. Simple language works best here. In fact, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends using a universal precautions approach; assume all consumers are at risk of not understanding education and instruction.
This recommendation is applicable across a range of domains. Just as there is no point in an employee reading the benefits of high intensity interval training for lowering systolic blood pressure without an understanding of what these terms mean in layman terms, there is also no point in someone being told to put away 5% of their annual income for their pension if they don’t understand why this is important.
The consumer of the content mustbe able to comprehend the advice before they can 1) decide whether they agree with it and feel they have the self-efficacy to follow it, and 2) apply it to their everyday life.
The employer is becoming increasingly important in delivering trustworthy information to their employees. From the employer’s perspective, it’s vital that they ensure they are using a wellbeing provider who only delivers evidence-based, regularly reviewed advice in content on health and finance. Rather than opinion pieces that are provided by social media influencers and celebrities, they must ensure it is research-oriented and trustworthy content.
On the POWR wellbeing tool, we have a wide range of content curators who are experts in their field, including physiotherapists, psychotherapists, personal trainers, nutritionists, financial wellbeing experts, and environmentalists.
While educational content is vital in providing the knowledge necessary to facilitate positive behaviour change, pairing this content with a diverse range of digital interventions is key in creating long-term healthy habits. On POWR, we have found that a combination of educational content and digital interventions has led to optimal wellbeing outcomes. Our most popular content items in the past 6 months have ranged from articles, soundscapes, webinars, podcasts, and healthy recipes.
Diverse content can help to solve diverse problems. As much as populations are diverse, people are also diverse, so they need appropriate, trustworthy content that they can apply to their everyday lives.
Psychologist and Digital Wellbeing Manager at Wrkit