Social and Behavioral Theories

9. Challenges Moving Forward

Science is by definition cumulative, with periods of paradigm shifts that come more rarely as a result of crises when current theories fail to explain some phenomena. The same applies to the science base that supports long-standing as well as innovative health behavior interventions. More research is needed at all points along the research continuum. We need more basic research to develop and test theories, more intervention research to develop and test evidence-based interventions, and more concerted, focused attention to dissemination of evidence-based interventions. Moreover, both the research and practice communities in health education and health behavior are sorely in need of more rigor and precision in theory development and testing—in measures, assessment of mediating variables, and in specification of theoretical elements. We encourage more care and attention to how theories are tested, and especially to the way variables are measured and analyzed. Building a solid, cumulative base of theory development is very difficult when one researcher’s findings cannot be compared to another’s.