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

  What is Barrier Analysis?

Barrier Analysis is a rapid assessment tool used in community health and other community development projects to identify behavioral determinants associated with a particular behavior so that more effective behavior change communication messages and support activities (e.g., changing social norms) can be developed. Below is an outline of the process used in Barrier Analysis. But before we delve into the details of the process, we will spend some time understanding where Barrier Analysis came from.

Graphic of the Steps in Barrier Analysis Define the goal, behavior, and target group Develop the behavior question Develop questions about determinants Organize the analysis sessions Collect field data results Tabulate and organize the results Use the results

A behavioral determinant is a reason why someone does or does not do something.

In Barrier Analysis, participants are asked a series of questions to identify eight potential determinants (most of which are “barriers”) that can block people from taking action that will improve their own or their children’s lives (e.g., exclusive breastfeeding to improve a child’s health). The questions can also identify the positive attributes of a behavior that act as “promoters” and can be used to “sell” a behavior during health promotion or other educational efforts.

Barrier Analysis was designed using the scientific literature on behavior change. People used to think that knowledge was enough to change behavior, but scientists and program managers realized that many people know what they should do, but they still do not do it. There are many different theoreticians who have contributed to this literature, and thus to Barrier Analysis, but two of the main theories that underpin the method are the Health Belief Model and the Theory of Reasoned Action.

The Health Belief Model
The Health Belief Model is a well-known health education model that is simple in design and that has been used successfully in health interventions. Psychologists in the U. S. Public Health Service originally developed this model in the 1950s to increase the use of preventive services such as chest x-rays for tuberculosis screening and immunizations for influenza. Since that time, the model has also been used to explain health behaviors and design interventions in many other areas, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer screening, and prenatal care in different cultural settings. The Health Belief model focuses on six determinants:

  • perceived susceptibility
  • perceived severity
  • perceived benefits (which includes perceived action efficacy)
  • perceived barriers (which we will discuss as “negative attributes of the action”)
  • cues for action
  • perceived self-efficacy

The next section discusses various behavior change theories.

Next (Behavior Change Theory)

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© November 2004

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