Focus group interview: an underutilized research technique for improving theory and practice in health education

Health Educ Q. 1987 Winter;14(4):411-48. doi: 10.1177/109019818701400404.


The purpose of this article is to increase awareness about and stimulate interest in using focus group interviews, a qualitative research technique, to advance the state-of-the-art of education and learning about health. After a brief discussion of small group process in health education, features of focus group interviews are presented, and a theoretical framework for planning a focus group study is summarized. Then, literature describing traditional and health-related applications of focus group interviews is reviewed and a synthesis of methodological limitations and advantages of this technique is presented. Implications are discussed regarding: need for more inductive qualitative research in health education; utility of focus group interviews for research and for formative and summative evaluation of health education programs; applicability of marketing research to understanding and influencing consumer behavior, despite notable distinctions between educational initiatives and marketing; and need for professional preparation faculty to consider increasing emphasis on qualitative research methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / therapy
  • Interviews as Topic / methods*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence