Engage Africa Foundation works with future public health leaders to mentor them in public health as it relates to chronic disease prevention and control. Through their practicums, their grow in their understanding of and ability to contribute to emerging public health challenges. One of those students is Afnan Ullah and she will be reflecting on her growth through monthly blogposts.
In my last blog post, I mentioned how my research project focuses on factors that contribute towards an intervention’s effectiveness with regards to tackling chronic and non-communicable diseases. Today, I wanted to share another interesting finding from my research that introduced me to the idea of couple-based interventions. There have been quite a number of interventions that emphasize the success of group-based interventions but not as much attention has been paid towards behaviour change interventions that can be influenced by partners.
It goes without saying that married couples overall experience better health outcomes; including positive effects on mental health, reduction of high cost health services, among others (Regier & Pardue, 2007). Ooms (2002) discusses the importance of focusing on strengthening couples and marriage within low-income communities. This is because these households have greater consequences for their children among other reasons (Ooms, 2002). Within the context of Africa specifically, couple centered interventions were found to be effective in HIV prevention (Conkling et al., 2010). In this particular case, the intervention that consisted of weekend voluntary counseling and testing targeted at couples was successful in enhancing HIV prevention (Conkling et al., 2010). However, despite its advantages, there appears to be a gap in the literature regarding the effectiveness of couple-based interventions in addressing chronic and non-communicable diseases in Africa. Studies have shown that couple-based interventions could be quite beneficial for chronic and non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Although this has not been proven in the African context, Close and McGrath (2017) discussed how based on Bandura’s social cognitive theory, couple-based interventions could facilitate healthy behaviour change. Interventions that focus on couples are more likely to be sustainable long-term; for example, weight-loss interventions are more likely to be more effective among couples than within individual interventions (Close & McGrath, 2017). Close and McGrath (2017) also found that individuals were more likely to attend screening interventions if both members of the couple were invited. Similarly, with respect to physical activity, elderly adults were more likely to participate in exercise programs, if their partners were also participants (Close & McGrath, 2017).
These are only a few examples of the benefits of couple-based interventions. I believe that these interventions could have a lot of relevance in the African countries because the family is held as a very strong value within these countries. Individuals from African countries significantly value the input of their family members; in addition, the actions and beliefs of members of the family influence one another (Burke, 1987). For these reasons, community-based interventions have been successful in these communities and I believe that there is the potential of combatting non-communicable diseases in Africa.
Burke, M. (1987). MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY IN AFRICA: Position Papers, April 1988. Retreived from http://www.cormacburke.or.ke/node/288
Close, E.A. &. McGrath, N. (2017). Health behaviour change interventions for couples: A systematic review. British Journal of Health Psychology. British Journal of Health Psychology, 22 (2)
Conkling, M., Shutes, E. L., Karita, E., Chomba, E., Tichacek, A., Sinkala, M., … Allen, S. A. (2010). Couples’ voluntary counselling and testing and nevirapine use in antenatal clinics in two African capitals: a prospective cohort study. Journal of the International AIDS Society, 13, 10. http://doi.org/10.1186/1758-2652-13-10
Ooms, T. (2002). Strengthening couples and marriage in low-income communities. Resource Center on Couples and Marriage Policy Center on Law and Social Policy. Retrieved from https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/public/resources-and-publications/archive/0053.pdf
Regier, J. & Partie, M. (2007). The effects of marriage on health: a synthesis of recent research evidence. Research brief. Retrieved from https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/effects-marriage-health-synthesis-recent-research-evidence-research-brief