Behavioral health

Behavioral health

Behavioral health, as a general concept, refers the reciprocal relationship between human behavior, individually or socially, and the well-being of the body, mind, and spirit, whether the later are considered individually or as an integrated whole. The term is more commonly used to describe a field of scientific study, academic proficiency and clinical healthcare practice. Like similar terms such as mental health and physical health, behavioral health is a basic English term which derives its meaning from the simple association between noun and adjective. Normal variations in the definition of such terms may be expected, given common variations seen in the component words, behavioral and health. When the term is employed in the scientific or clinical sense, variations in the focus, if not the meaning of the term, have been observed.

In 1978 the term “behavioral medicine” was formally introduced and described as

the interdisciplinary field concerned with the development and integration of behavioral and biomedical science, knowledge and techniques relevant to health and illness and the application of this knowledge and these techniques to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. [Schwartz, G.E. & Weiss, S.M. (1978). Behavioral medicine revisited: An amended definition. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 1, 249-251.]
In 1979 behavioral health emerged as that aspect of behavioral medicine
promoting a philosophy of health that stresses individual responsibility in the application of behavioral and biomedical science, knowledge and techniques to the maintenance of health and the prevention of illness and dysfunction by a variety of self-initiated individual or shared activities. [Matarazzo, J.D. (1980). Behavioral health and behavioral medicine: Frontiers for a new health psychology. American Psychologist, 35, 807-817.]
Unlike its progenitor, behavioral medicine, the emphasis of behavioral health had been placed squarely in the arena of health maintenance and the prevention of illness.

Notwithstanding minor adaptations of health related terms to the realm of professional study and practice, the term “behavioral health” has remained relatively stable and closely linked to its basic English roots, until quite recently. In recent years, there has been increasing public pressure to address health care access in the context of virtually unbounded access to information through electronic media such as television, radio, and internet. The juxtaposition of public interest with unchecked access to unchecked information has compromised the health literacy goals of consumers, practitioners, health care administrators and public leaders. This disconnect is apparent in the many distinct definitions one can encounter on a brief internet search for the term “behavioral health”.

The need for accurate and consistent communication of health information is gaining recognition in the information age, as are the responsibilities and challenges associated with health literacy of the public and risk communication by health practitioners and public leaders. The US Department of Health and Human Services defines health literacy as

[t] he degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. [Healthy People 2010-Communication] [Healthy People 2010 [] ]
It has been suggested that the contribution of the term “behavioral health” to healthy decision-making will, predictably, diminish until it is firmly reattached to its basic English roots. [McGuinness, K.M. (2008). Behavioral health is the access to healthcare linchpin. Public Health Strategies for the New Millennium. United States Public Health Service Scientific and Training Symposium. Commissioned Officers Foundation. Tucson.]

See also

* PsychGuide

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