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Speaking of Health: Assessing Health Communication Strategies for Diverse Populations
amplify or reduce fear associated with health threats and treatment procedures (Leventhal, Robitaille and Hudson, 1997).
Most of the studies guided by the “self-regulation” framework have focused on actions for primary, secondary, and/or tertiary prevention that occur repeatedly over relatively long time frames for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer (the majority of the 1,800 plus items using the keyword “self-regulation” that were entered in the PsychINFO data base since 1990 are focused on health issues (see Leventhal, Brissette, and Leventhal, in press; Petrie and Weinman, 1997). The focus on chronic illness is consistent with hypothesis and data showing that representations of health threats and the procedures for control evolve over time as a function of changes in the individual’s concrete experience with illness and its symptoms and information from other persons and various media messages. Data supporting the Common Sense Model indicate that the great majority of behaviors initiated for health reasons are motivated by symptoms or functional deficits in the self or by observations of such changes in other persons. Symptoms and functional change are indicators of the state of the system, whether one is ill, stressed, or simply feeling the effects of aging, and changes in these perceptions over experienced (rather than clock) time are typically used as criteria for evaluating the efficacy of self selected and medically recommended interventions for avoiding and controlling illness threats. Although the Common Sense Model and the Social Learning Models (e.g., Bandura, 1977) were developed in parallel, they hold common assumptions about the determinants of health action.