Canadians here rarely wear masks, so I don’t wear one either. A Synthesis of Qualitative Research on Environmental Determinants of Disease Prevention Behaviors
University of Guelph
Public health policies shape health behaviours in communities and reduce the burdens associated with chronic and infectious diseases. Among them, smoke-free policies and COVID-19 restrictions have been quite well known and covered extensively. Qualitative research studies have been conducted to explore the influence of these environmental factors (i.e., health policies, cultural norms) on the public’s attitudes and beliefs related to preventive health behaviours in shared community settings. The purpose was to conduct a systematic review of previously published qualitative research, generate across-study themes, and propose recommendations for future policy implementation, health messaging, and behaviour change.
This review included a comprehensive search strategy, relevance screening and confirmation, data extraction, quality assessment, thematic synthesis, and quality-of-evidence assessment. In total, 73 relevant articles were identified from 2470 references. Overall, 17 review findings were synthesized and grouped under 6 overarching themes. Each theme was mapped to one of three categories: (i) the political environment (n = 2; facilitates change and shifts perspectives; restricts freedoms and highlights hypocrisy), (ii) the sociocultural environment (n = 3; group formation; adapting to the new normal; social responsibility), and (iii) the physical environment (n = 1; barriers dictate behaviours). These findings provide insights into how the environmental influences the interpersonal and intrapersonal levels of health behaviours. It also sheds some light into how the (de)normalization phenomenon or diffusion of health behaviours occurs in communities. We believe our findings can be applied to other public or occupational health contexts.