• Journal Article

Social Ecology of Asthma: Engaging Stakeholders in Integrating Health Behavior Theories and Practice-Based Evidence Through Systems Mapping

Citation

Gillen, E. M., Lich, K. H., Yeatts, K. B., Hernandez, M. L., Smith, T. W., & Lewis, M. (2014). Social Ecology of Asthma: Engaging Stakeholders in Integrating Health Behavior Theories and Practice-Based Evidence Through Systems Mapping. Health Education and Behavior, 41(1), 63-77. DOI: 10.1177/1090198113486804

Abstract

This article describes a process for integrating health behavior and social science theories with practice-based insights using participatory systems thinking and diagramming methods largely inspired by system dynamics methods. This integration can help close the gap between research and practice in health education and health behavior by offering a systematic approach to bring together stakeholders across multiple domains. In this process we create a diagram using constructs from multiple health behavior theories at all levels of the social ecological framework as variables in causal loop diagrams. The goal of this process is to elucidate the reciprocal relationships between explanatory factors at various levels of the social ecological framework that render so many public health problems intractable. To illustrate, we detail a theory-based, replicable process for creating a qualitative diagram to enrich understanding of caregiver and provider behavior around adherence to pediatric asthma action plans. We describe how such diagramming can serve as the foundation for translating evidence into practice to address real-world challenges. Key insights gained include recognition of the complex, multilevel factors affecting whether, and how effectively, parents/caregivers and medical providers co-create an asthma action plan, and important feedback dynamics at play that can support or derail ongoing collaboration. Although this article applies this method to asthma action plan adherence in children, the method and resulting diagrams are applicable and adaptable to other health behaviors requiring continuous, daily action