Date of this Version
Poindexter, K. 1995. Legislation and Education as Strategies to Reduce Behavioral Health Risk Factors in the State of Nebraska. MCRP thesis, University of Nebraska.
In the interest of improving health care planning and practice, this paper exami~es legislation and educational strategies designed to reduce behavioral health risk factors in the state of Nebraska and the United States. The growing problem of modifying health behavior in the nation and Nebraska is reviewed, including trends in seat belt use, drinking and driving, smoking, hypertension, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle. Nebraska's rate of death associated with these risk factors is higher than the national average. Several of the strategies which Nebraska and the United States have implemented are reviewed.
Legislation to reduce the prevalence of seat belt nonuse, drinking and driving, and smoking, is one prevention strategy which has been developed and implemented in both Nebraska and the United States, although levels of enforcement and type of penalties vary.
Despite legislative action, many people still find ways to violate the laws without punishment; therefore, education plays a critical role in prevention. If programs are targeted to the right demographic groups with the right methodology, legislation may become less important in controlling or modifying human behavior. The most recent national goals and objectives (Healthy People, 1991) developed by the federal government indicated that, although the rate of increase in the number of deaths which can be attributed to poor health behavior is rising more slowly than in previous years, there is still an increase, which ideally should be reversed by the year 2000.
Over the last few decades, both legislative and educational strategies have produced some moderate changes in the overall health of our nation, but with more resources devoted to planning and implementing legislative and educational strategies, Nebraska and the nation overall demonstrate potential for successfully addressing the problems and achieving the goal of preventing deaths due to poor health behavior. Since the financial impact on our health care system and the economy is a very critical issue at the present time, improvements in health care planning and practice, as well as further research and evaluation are warranted.
Adviser: Professor Gordon Scholz