Health intervention

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A health intervention is an effort to promote behaviors that optimize mental and physical health or discourage or reframe behaviors considered potentially health-averse. To the former category belong the alignment of one or more forms of authority, influence, or evidence—familial relations, scientific studies, health education, mass media opinions, dominant social norms, organized religion, legal enforcements, cultural myths, among many others—with behaviors intended to regulate the mind and body into a state of productivity conducive to, or at least harmlessness not subtractive from, the prevailing norms of a given society. In Western societies steeped in what Max Weber described as a Protestant ethics-driven form of capitalism, such interventions valorize disease-preventing behaviors and tend to equate good health, personal happiness, and ever-optimal bodily and mental productivity: daily physical exercise, regimented nutrition, meditation or prayer, regulated sleep hygiene, safer sex practices, the development of a socially minded sense of responsibility. Behavior eliminating or reducing forms of health intervention include discouraging forms of immediate gratification that turn dangerous or unproductive when left unchecked: overindulgence in certain foods, excessive intake of nicotine, alcohol, and other mood-enhancing or mind-altering substances, and a range of compulsive behaviors including anonymous sex with multiple partners, indulgence in uncomfortable emotional states (sadness, rage, jealousy), or gambling or spending beyond one’s financial means. Perhaps the most overlooked and most important health intervention is the encouragement of at-risk subjects to develop a livable theory of mind that supersedes authoritarian structures and counts behaviors as healthy or unhealthy dependent in part to how they prove imperative extensions to or unnecessary to the personal carriage of a defensible, ethics-centered value system.

Health interventions may be run by a variety of organizations, including health departments and private organizations. Such interventions can have a variety of forms (e.g. websites, short movies or 'commercials', posters, protocols for counseling sessions, or plans to persuade key actors to enact changes in the environment, for example by decreasing the offer of unhealthy food at schools), and often consist of a combination of Behavior Change Methods that target specific psychological determinants or environmental conditions for behavior. Several systematic protocols exist to assist developing such interventions, one of the most well-known being Intervention Mapping.[1]

In recent years various forms of intervention involving family and friends have been developed and used to encourage people with self-destructive behaviors or addictions to accept help. This started with the Johnson Intervention in the 1960s. Since then several variations on this basic methodology have been developed, each with its advantages and disadvantages.


  1. ^ Bartholomew, L. K., Parcel, G. S., Kok, G., Gottlieb, N. H., & Fernández, M.E., 2011. Planning health promotion programs; an Intervention Mapping approach, 3rd Ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.