Background on Individual Education
What are individual education strategies?
- Individual education interventions work to increase physical activity by enhancing individual knowledge and skills as well as altering attitudes and beliefs about physical activity.
- Previous studies have shown it is important to provide information about physical activity as well as increase skills to improve an individual’s confidence in their ability to be physically active. As a result, your intervention may focus specifically on increasing people’s awareness of the importance of physical activity by providing information, teach the skills necessary to begin an exercise program, address barriers to being physically active over time, or include some combination of these strategies to consider the readiness of multiple individuals or groups in your community.
- Individual education interventions should be culturally sensitive, involve family and friends, and incorporate the individual’s readiness to change behavior, as appropriate.
How can I use individual education strategies in physical activity interventions?
- The specific strategies used to provide information differ based on the focus of the intervention. For example, information (e.g., short and long term benefits of physical activity, recommendations for fitness, how to begin a physical activity routine, relationship of physical activity to health and quality of life), may be provided through individual education sessions or self-help materials such as newsletters, brochures, posters, fact sheets, videos, or websites.
- Most of these strategies provide information to individuals, but they can also be conducted in such a way that individuals can ask questions or get clarification. Other strategies may provide cues to action (e.g., calendar reminders, a note on the refrigerator) to remind people to be active rather than direct education to increase knowledge about physical activity.
How do “tailored messages” and “targeted messages” differ? How can I use these messages in physical activity interventions?
- Individual education interventions may work best when information is matched to the individual. “Tailored messages” take into account specific individual characteristics in creating a physical activity message designed for the individual. Materials or strategies may be developed specifically to meet an individual’s characteristics in terms of readiness to change, attitudes, beliefs, current physical activity behaviors and other lifestyle characteristics. The concept of readiness to change (drawn from the Transtheoretical Model or Stages of Change) suggests that individuals may need different kinds of interventions to help them address physical activity depending on how ready they are to change their behaviors. For example, physical activity may not be a high priority for some individuals while others may have thought about getting more physically active but don’t know how to begin. Yet, others may be active but have difficulty staying active over time.
- Tailored health education materials are developed based on characteristics that are unique to each individual; therefore, an individual assessment (e.g., survey, interview) is required in order to collect information specific to the individual.
- Alternately, other materials or strategies may be geared toward a specific subgroup of the population of interest (e.g., women at risk for osteoporosis). These are often called “targeted messages” because they consider the specific needs of this subpopulation. In a similar manner, these strategies can be used to influence groups of people (e.g., encourage the targeted population to include weight bearing activities in their daily routine) but the messages are not specific to each individual.
What is an example of a tailored message?
- A recommendation to be physically active may take into account the following information about the individual:
- Rachel has been thinking about starting to exercise over the last two weeks, she believes that being physically active may improve her mood, she does not have much time to exercise, and she has a dog named Clover.
- In this case, a message can be designed for Rachel as follows:
- “Congratulations Rachel! Thinking about getting more active is the first step to becoming more active. Even though you are very busy, it is worthwhile to make time in your daily routine for physical activity. Being active can give you more energy and improve your mood to help you tackle each day. The best way to build physical activity into your daily routine is to think about activities you do everyday. You and your dog, Clover, can benefit from walking for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week.”
What is skill building and how can I use it in physical activity management interventions?
- Another common individual education approach that is used to address physical activity is building the skills to change behavior. Skill building strategies (e.g., a new workout routine) can be tailored to individuals or targeted to the population of interest. Both tailored and targeted strategies can be delivered once or at regular intervals (e.g., weekly, monthly or quarterly) and appear in the form of print, telephone, video or computer kiosk messages. They may be conducted on their own or in combination with other intervention activities (e.g., enhancing support relationships or access to places to be physically active). On the other hand, it may be important to provide specific skill building opportunities as part of individual or group classes through recommendations from class instructors or videos.
What else do I need to consider for physical activity management interventions?
- Some studies describe advantages of an interactive, web-based tailored intervention over a more traditional print version, including: the ability to receive immediate feedback, an interactive nature similar to interpersonal counseling, and the ability to use graphics and other features to increase interest and attention. Furthermore, once on the web, the tailored intervention can reach a relatively larger group of people making it more cost-effective. In addition, it can be updated continuously to include the most recent knowledge.