Behavioral Scientists

5 Diverse Roles of Behavioral Scientists in Public Health Settings

Behavior science is the systemic study of human behavior. In a public health setting, behavioral scientists specifically study the economic, cultural, social, and psychological factors that can impact people’s health. Implementing the rules of behavioral sciences on a specific population can provide insight to draw various public health-related conclusions.

A bachelor’s in public health can make you eligible for only some jobs but, a master’s increases your chances of getting employed in various roles in the industry. Moreover, career experience as a consultant and social worker can also increase your marketability. Typical MPH courses include leadership in health, epidemiology, biostatistics, and research methods that are essential for a behavioral scientist to solve challenging public health problems. Furthermore, a competent behavioral scientist should have excellent analytical, communication, and research skills. Behavioral scientists help define public health issues and related risk factors. For example, behavioral studies have discovered a link between increased health problems and lower socioeconomic status. 

The career outlook for behavioral scientists is promising. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career is predicted to grow 8% in the next decade, with an average of 10,600 job openings each year.

In this article, we will discuss the diverse roles of behavioral scientists in public health settings.

1. Researching and Publishing the Findings

Behavioral scientists in public health settings use qualitative and quantitative research methods to study the relationship between human behavior and disease. They use social sciences to design questionnaires and collect data through these surveys. They also use various statistical, sociological, and psychological methods to reduce measurement errors in existing surveys and develop questions for a new research survey. 

Another crucial role of behavioral scientists is collaborating with government agencies and private research organizations to discuss their research findings. They may share their findings through workshops and seminars and get them published in scientific journals.       

2. Evaluation of Data

Behavioral scientists are specialized in collecting and analyzing data. They develop grant proposals, write scientific papers, and make presentations based on the conclusions they draw from the data. A primary role of behavioral scientists is to collect, interpret, and use data to build easily understandable models to make sense of the data. 

They recommend treatment or prevention plans after in-depth qualitative and quantitative analyses of the data. They may also collaborate with project leaders to develop and implement disease evaluation programs. Additionally, they utilize various data collection methods like logic models and assessment instruments.

3. Advocating for the Rights of Marginalized Groups

Behavioral scientists are educated and trained to identify and eliminate bias in the decision-making process of others. They highlight (through scientific research and evidence) the problems of marginalized groups that can potentially lead to health issues in these communities. They also advocate prioritizing the health problems of all people irrespective of their ethnicities. For example, ensuring a similar government response towards a disease breakout in a marginalized community or any other community. They also find the cause of diseases in low-income groups and advocate for their rights to eliminate several avoidable diseases.

Furthermore, they may study the effects of large-scale changes by talking to patients about their experiences and perspectives. For example, one scientific study suggested shifting care for diabetes patients from hospital to community. However, upon reviewing the patient perspective, behavioral scientists concluded that not all patients accept a shift of care as they associate hospital care with quality, while other patients thought that a transfer of care meant that they were better and their condition wasn’t serious.  

4. Developing Effective Treatment Plans

Another crucial role of behavioral scientists is to develop treatment plans for various prevalent diseases. They may also design treatment plans to help people suffering from several kinds of addictions. The ultimate goal for developing efficient and effective treatment plans is to improve the quality of life of the patients. 

Either general treatment methods are implemented, or customized programs are developed to meet individual needs. Behavioral scientists ensure the coordination of all treatment efforts and ensure that patient success rates are optimized. They may also recruit, train, and manage other treatment specialists while maintaining the program’s financial stability.

5. Organizing Health Interventions

Health intervention involves activities that help assess, promote, and modify health in a population. Population health interventions are policies developed to identify underlying economic, social, and environmental conditions that result in diseases. Common issues that may be addressed through a public health intervention include alcohol use, obesity, and infectious diseases like HIV. 

Public health interventions can be focused on improving the health sector, or they can involve educating, housing, and employing marginalized groups. Common health interventions may include vaccination, screening programs, and food supplementation. After the implementation of a policy, it is supervised, and feedback is reviewed to understand if it brings about change, in which context it works best, and if that policy is valuable for the population. 

Behavioral scientists develop theories based on the results of the interventions. They also establish protocols to implement these strategies in a way that they give the best possible outcome. Additionally, they publish the finding of evidence-based intervention programs in peer-reviewed journals.  

The Bottom Line

Behavioral scientists have a crucial role in public health settings. They essentially study human behavior and its’ effects on the mental and physical health of the individual and the population. They use various qualitative and quantitative research models to predict disease outbreaks and their trajectory in a specific population. The role of behavioral scientists in public health and other organizations is becoming clearer and so it has become a popular field of work. 

Behavioral scientists collect data, analyze and publish it in peer-reviewed journals. They also use data models to develop effective treatment plans to eliminate problems like addiction from a population. They develop public health intervention programs as well to design activities that help prevent avoidable diseases. Furthermore, advocating for the rights of marginalized groups is a praise-worthy role of behavioral scientists. Overall, this article highlights the crucial role of behavioral scientists in public health settings.

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