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Center for the Study of Health Beliefs and Behavior
112 Paterson Street, 4th floor
848-932-7537

Directed by Professor Howard Leventhal, the Center for the Study of Health Beliefs and Behavior (“Mind/Body Center”) is an interdisciplinary initiative integrating health, cognitive, and social psychology with clinical medicine, medical sociology and health policy to support studies advancing a biopsychosocial approach to mind-body relations in health behavior. The Center was established in mid-2004 and funded by a five-year award from the National Institute of Aging and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. The Center’s work continues to inform, develop, implement and evaluate interventions that change health beliefs and behaviors to improve health and health care; improve the bi-directional flow of communication among practitioners, clients and families; increase shared decision-making and insure the implementation of practice guidelines; and support studies advancing a biopsychosocial approach to mind-body relations in health and translate these findings into innovative health practices.

Research projects are designed to advance the theory of the common-sense model of self regulation (CS/SR) and its practice for the management of chronic illnesses and the prevention of complications. This theoretical framework integrates individual, social, institutional and cultural processes. Studies examine and link self appraisals of health and self identities with contextual factors, such as family perceptions of illness, family support, interactions with practitioners, and institutional policies. By understanding clients’ mental models of their illnesses, physicians are prepared to prescribe, guide and evaluate treatment more effectively. Various methodologies have been used in the research including randomized clinical trials, observation of provider practices, cohort designs and qualitative methods.

A central proposition of the Center is that health policy mandates imposed from the top of the organizational ladder are most effective in improving the quality of health care when accompanied by a theoretically guided, empirical analysis of the self and other processes that have immediate effects on the experience, function, and health outcomes of clients. This approach is particularly critical for individuals with a chronic illness where the majority of their treatment and management occur in the community beyond health care settings. Improving the quality of self and family-based care requires the analysis of both individual and social/institutional processes. The Center’s research contributes to improvements in quality of care and health outcomes by improving an understanding of the cognitive and affective processes underlying older individuals’ experiences with chronic illness; translating the findings from the cognitive and social sciences into the clinical context; testing and disseminating theory-based interventions based on an overlap of common-sense models of illness and treatments held by clients and families; improving communication among practitioners, clients and families and increasing shared decision-making; and insuring the implementation of practice guidelines.
Howard Leventhal, Ph.D.
Director