Food for the Hungry Logo Barrier Analysis: A Tool for Improving Behavior Change Communication in Child Survival and Community Development Programs
Background Information
What is Barrier Analysis
Behavior change theory
Seeing the need
Fisherman story
Seven steps
The "Exercise" exercise
How to Conduct Barrier Analysis

Masai villagers shaking hands

  Four Important Factors

There are four important things that we need to take into account when we are trying to decide the goal of our health education activities.

  1. If a person knows what he or she should do, it does NOT mean that he or she will do it. Other factors influence our decisions. Having knowledge about a behavior is only one factor. People often learn about a behavior long before they are willing to adopt it.

  2. If a person wants to do a behavior, it does NOT mean that he or she will do it. Sometimes we are blocked and cannot do what we want to do and know we need to do (e.g., for lack of time, money). In addition, people often do not seek help from others (e.g., friends, health providers, God) to overcome a problem or change a habit.

  3. Many times we try to increase the level of FEAR that a person has in order to get him/her to do a preventive action. However, sometimes the problem is too much rather than too little fear of the disease or problem. For example, we speak of the danger of diarrhea to convince a person to use the latrine. However, sometimes too much fear can keep a person from doing something.

    For example, some women have avoided getting pap smears because they were very afraid of finding that they had cancer. Some would say, “If I have cancer, I don’t want to know!” However, if cervical cancer is detected in the early stages, it is easier to treat and there is a higher probability that the person will not die. Another example is going to the hospital for treatment. There are people who are afraid to go to the hospital for medical treatment, since they think of the hospital as “a place to go to die.” With people who feel this way, you probably will not want to increase their fear unnecessarily by telling them they probably have something very serious and should therefore go to the hospital for more tests. Instead, it may be more effective to tell them that the problem they have is probably NOT very serious, especially if they seek treatment early, and that they should go to the hospital to find out what the problem is. For these cases, we often need to decrease people’s level of fear. Concerning perceived severity of a disease, it is important to determine if the problem is that the person has too much fear or not enough fear.

  4. Many of the actions that people engage in that improve their health are NOT necessarily done for health reasons. It is possible to encourage a person to do something that improves his/her health for reasons that are not directed at improving health (e.g., washing yourself with soap in order to smell good). We need to find reasons that motivate (or would motivate) people to do something that will improve their health, even if the reason is not health related (e.g., brushing your teeth in order to have good breath).

  Behavior Change Theory
  Change Theories
Four Factors
  Four Factors Quiz
  Doer/Non-Doer Analysis
  BEHAVE Framework


Additional Resources

For those of you who want to know more about behavioral science and how you can apply it in your work, consider taking the “Thinking Like a Marketer” online course.

Other resources for behavior change theory include:

Theory of Reasoned Action: A model developed to predict behavior

More Information on the Health Belief Model

Webcast on Prochaska’s Stages of Change


Next (Four Important Factors Quiz)

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© November 2004

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