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The Role of Theory in Developing Effective Health Communications


  • Martin Fishbein,

    Corresponding author
    1. Annenberg Public Policy Center, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104
      Martin Fishbein; e-mail:
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  • Joseph N. Cappella

    1. Annenberg School for Communication, Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6220
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Martin Fishbein; e-mail:


This study attempts to show the relevance of behavioral theory for developing communications designed to promote healthy and/or to prevent or alter unhealthy behaviors. After describing an integrative model of behavioral prediction, the model’s implications for designing persuasive communications are considered. Using data from a study on smoker’s intentions to continue smoking and to quit, it is shown how the theory helps identify the critical beliefs underlying these or other intentions. Finally, it is argued that although behavioral theory can help identify the beliefs that should be targeted in a persuasive communication, our ability to change these beliefs will ultimately rest on communication theory.

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