What is Behavioral Medicine?




Behavioral Medicine focusses on the interaction between behavior and disease
(some would say "wellness"). Its concerns range over getting patients to
follow medical regimens, the content of such regimens, and related matter.
It also addresses self-changers. Its research focusses on how and why people
change in their medically significant behaviors, and how such change may be
facilitated. Such medically significant behaviors range over the taking of
one's medicine by chronic disease patients, showing up for medical
appointments, getting regular check-ups, stress reduction, diet, exercise,
smoking, and related matters. In general such behaviors, while often
maladaptive and/or unwanted, do not rise to the level of diagnosable mental
and nervous conditions. Some of the focus is on prevention, some on chronic
disease management, and some on related non-medical issues for which the
techniques of Behavioral Medicine are effective. Recent studies have shown
that a substantial portion of the nation's medical costs are caused by
Behavioral Medicine-related issues.

Behavioral Medicine is a relatively recent, and rapidly growing area of
medicine, which now holds annual conferences, has its own professional
society, the Society for Behavioral Medicine, and has a wide body of new
research and practice, funded significantly by the National Institutes of
Health, the National Cancer Institute; the National Institute for Drug
Abuse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the British
National Health Service.  It is beginning to find its way into the public
consciousness through such recent books as "Changing for Good" by Prochaska,
Norcross, and DiClementi (Morrow, 1994). It is a component of "mainstream"
medicine rather than "alternative" medicine. It is _not_ the "Behaviorism"
of the history of psychology, with which it has little connection.

Public policy aspects of Behavioral Medicine are related to the enormous
costs of the health care system, particularly in areas where published
research has shown that traditional approaches to preventive medicine and to
chronic disease treatment used alone have proven unsatisfactory in large
numbers of cases. Prior to the research and application of Behavioral
Medicine, such failures have been dismissed as patient non-compliance as if
that explained something and it was the patient's "fault". Published
research to date has shown that physicians are acutely aware of the
incomplete training and weakness of technique in traditional medical
practice related to this issue.

The research field is interdisciplinary and involves much overlap with
psychology, with management, with goal-setting and performance, and with
specialized aspects of computers and communications. Among recent
breakthroughs in the field are those by Prof. Robert A. Bjork, recent
Chairman of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council
studies on enhancing human performance. Extensive NIH-supported research by
Prochaska et al on addictions including tobacco and alcohol have served to
validate their Transtheoretical Model of behavioral change.
psychologists, there is no appropriate newsgroup in sci.psychology.  Though
some of the work involves economics and public policy, that content is
treated sproradically, in passing, and in isolation in general discussion
groups and economics groups. That this should be so is not surprising, since
Behavioral Medicine itself has become a separate focus of practice only in
the past ten-odd years.

Teaching targets include physicians, dentists, and nurses, and students in
those fields, and practice is significantly, though not exclusively related
to organic medical conditions and compliance with medical regimens.
Potential self-changers may also be interested participants.

The Behavioral Medicine newsgroup welcomes the following participants:
 -  Physicians and medical students
 -  Dentists and dental students
 -  Psychologists and psychology students
 -  Specialists from related fields such as Preventive Medicine
 -  Associated professionals (therapists, teachers, nurses, social
    workers, etc.)
 -  Behavioral Medicine researchers and practitioners
 -  Management, goal-setting, and human performance researchers and students
    interested in Behavioral Medicine or working in collateral areas
 -  Computer and communications specialists working on Behavioral Medicine
 -  Health economists
 -  Health public policy analysts
 -  Current or potential patients
 -  Relatives or friends of patients

Topics for discussion include:
 -  Research
 -  Applications/Techniques
 -  Integration with current medical practice
 -  Self-change
 -  Case studies
 -  Wider application of research in the field
 -  Commercial applications
 -  Educational programs
 -  Seminars/Conferences
 -  Any related problems, questions or comments.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jul 2016
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