One of the biggest challenges in population health and wellness programs is motivating people to change health and lifestyle habits. It helps if you catch them at the right time in their health journey— when they’ll be most receptive to interventions. But how can you know who is ready to make a change and who isn’t?
Health risk assessments (HRAs) collect self-reported health and lifestyle habits of the populations you serve — including readiness to change data. An intuitive and engaging HRA gathers information directly from the source for health and lifestyle information—the individuals themselves—and is effectively the only way you can measure readiness to change.
What is Readiness to Change?
Readiness to change is a cycle with distinct stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Recognizing the people in each stage in your health and wellness initiatives allows you to set appropriate goals and motivate the right kinds of actions to advance a person in their health journey.
The Readiness to Change Journey
When developing health initiatives, it can be helpful to visualize readiness to change as a cycle. At Wellsource, we use the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) introduced and popularized by James O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente in the early 1980s.
Their research suggests that individuals are very unlikely to make changes at the drop of a hat – instead, they cycle through stages. The stages – precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance – feed into each other, although the path is not always linear and an individual may find themselves cycling from action or maintenance to one of the earlier stages.
Let’s walk through the five main stages of the readiness to change cycle, and what individuals might be thinking during each stage.
Get a more in-depth understanding of the five stages of readiness to change—and the messages that motivate action. Downloading our guide.
Readiness to Change Stage: Precontemplation
What they’re thinking: At this stage of the readiness to change journey, people aren’t intending to take action anytime soon and may actually be unaware that their behaviors or habits are problematic.
Readiness to Change Stage: Contemplation
What they’re thinking: In this stage, people have begun to realize that their behavior is problematic. They start to consider the pros and cons of continuing their behaviors/habits, although they haven’t yet decided that making a change is the definitive best choice for them.
Readiness to Change Stage: Preparation
What they’re thinking: In this stage, change is imminent – typically within the next 30 days. An individual knows they need to make a change and may have already started making tiny changes to their habits or daily routine.
Readiness to Change Stage: Action
What they’re thinking: It’s happening! People in the action stage are actively making positive changes to their behaviors. They are committed to a healthier lifestyle, although they may be facing temptations that are difficult to turn down.
Readiness to Change Stage: Maintenance
What they’re thinking: People in the Maintenance stage have been making changes for six months or longer and may consider themselves reformed (i.e.: “a former smoker” as opposed to “someone trying to quit smoking”).
Knowing what your population is thinking is just the first step. What can your health and wellness programs do to motivate healthier choices? Download our recent guide, “Readiness to Change: A Science-Based Model for Motivating Positive Health & Lifestyle Habits” to explore example initiatives for each stage of the readiness to change journey, including an example case study following one individual’s journey to quit smoking.