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What’s your Why?

March 28, 2019

Tracy Carver, M.P.A.
Director, Health Promotion and Community Engagement
HealthInsight Oregon

Diabetes Alert Day was March 26, and our team was busy working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health systems, health plans and community-based organizations to get the word out to consumers that diabetes is preventable and what they can do to take action. As part of this effort, CDC launched a new tag line: “What’s your Why?” This got me thinking, “What is my why and how do people find their why?”

One of our partners that delivers the National Diabetes Prevention Program to underserved communities in New Mexico incorporates vision boards in their lifestyle change programs to help participants think about their “why” and what motivates them to stay active and make nutrition a priority. I recently did this exercise for myself and discovered my “why” comes from four places: staying healthy for my children, managing stress, walking my talk and staving off the back pain that plagues me if I don’t stay fit.

There are a number of things that are important to helping people become engaged in their health and activated to make changes:

  1. Provider engagement in helping patients find their path to support behavior change is vital. In my own experience, it was my PCP that suggested I start Pilates after my back pain became worse post-pregnancy. What did I do? I went out and signed up for a class. That was 10 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I credit that provider and her advice with fundamentally changing the trajectory of my life. As I experienced myself, research suggests that patients are more likely to enroll in a lifestyle program when suggested by their provider.1
  2. Patient activation and self-efficacy (one’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations) play an important role in readiness to change behavior and sustaining this behavior change. The Patient Activation Measure is a tool available to clinicians for assessing activation. Most evidence-based lifestyle change and self-management programs rely on tactics proven to increase self-efficacy and patient activation, including increasing health-related knowledge, facilitating goal setting and providing skills training for problem solving and relapse prevention.2
  3. Finally, without community support, it can be difficult for people to fully effect change in their lives. The “Health Impact Pyramid,” explored in this article by former CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., illustrates the broader community context we need to consider when striving to help people stay healthy.

A growing number of communities and organizations in the business of health and health care are seeking better solutions to helping people get and stay healthier. One way you can get more involved is by joining HealthDoers, where you can share ideas and learn about multi-sector innovations striving to create a culture of health.

What’s motivated you to make a significant change in your life? What have been strong motivators for your patients?

HealthInsight works with community partners to increase access to self-management and lifestyle change programs, such as the Diabetes Prevention Program. For more information about our Diabetes Prevention Program work, see https://healthinsight.org/our-diabetes-prevention-initiative.

About the Author

Tracy Carver is the Director of Health Promotion and Community Engagement at HealthInsight Oregon, where she leads multi-state and Oregon-based teams working on community engagement, chronic disease prevention and self-management, and public-health oriented initiatives. See her full bio.