Social action theory for a public health psychology

Am Psychol. 1991 Sep;46(9):931-46. doi: 10.1037//0003-066x.46.9.931.


Many illnesses can be prevented or limited by altering personal behavior, and public health planners have turned to psychology for guidance in fostering self-protective activity. A social theory of personal action provides an integrative framework for applying psychology to public health, disclosing gaps in our current understanding of self-regulation, and generating guidelines for improving health promotion at the population level. A social action view emphasizes social interdependence and interaction in personal control of health-endangering behavior and proposes mechanisms by which environmental structures influence cognitive action schemas, self-goals, and problem-solving activities critical to sustained behavioral change. Social action theory clarifies relationships between social and personal empowerment and helps explain stages of self-change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Motivation
  • Public Health*
  • Social Environment