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  The CEHC builds on PRECEDE-PROCEED and the Social Ecological models through its attention to the various socio-cultural contexts that affect human attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors.

The most successful community based initiatives are theory driven. In the field of health promotion and disease prevention, two of the most successful have been PRECEDE-PROCEED and the Social Ecological model. These two models are similar in that they move beyond the focus on individual attitudinal and behavior change to include the other social levels of change that need to be addressed in order to promote sustainable change. Both models begin to address the socio-cultural complexity of health and social phenomena.

The CEHC builds on these models through its attention to the various socio-cultural contexts that affect human attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors. However, it also gives attention to the processes and meanings that humans attach to phenomena at every contextual level. Together, contexts, processes, and meanings more fully address the complexity which characterizes most social and health problems.

By connecting contexts, processes, and meanings, the CEHC forms a cultural ecological and social change model that is informed by multiple interdisciplinary theoretical approaches. At the same time, the CEHC is made up of three distinct, but highly interrelated theoretical paradigms.

Cultural Systems Paradigm (CSP)
The CSP operationalizes the concept of culture by dividing cultural systems into several categories.

  1. the psychological and biological characteristics of the human individual
  2. the various social systems of which that individual is a member
  3. individual behaviors and those behaviors preferred by these various social systems
  4. the ideational or meaning systems of the individual, and those preferred by the various social systems
  5. expressive and material culture
  6. significant environmental and historical factors
  7. and the range of felt and perceived needs of the individual and the groups of which he or she is a member.

The CSP views the contents of these categories as systemic, in that phenomena in one category often influence and are influenced by phenomena in other categories. The CSP takes the view that “if a particular health or social risk behavior (e.g., a preference for foods of high fat content) has existed within a human group for a long period of time, and seems to be practiced by a significant number of persons, then it is most likely a cultural systems phenomenon, related to the contents of the other categories of that system.”
The CSP is primarily a research paradigm, used to explore the cultural systemic qualities of the community or population targeted for change and the various cultural systems involved in trying to bring about change.

The Cultural Systems Approach to Change (CSAC)
The CEHC is focused on translating CSP research findings into a framework for positive change that is sustained, institutionalized, and diffused throughout the target community. The CSAC is a paradigm for conceptualizing effective community-based change which is informed by the CSP. The components of the CSP are based on the assumption that “if a particular ideation or behavior is part of a cultural system, then if that behavior is to be changed, programs oriented towards such change must take a cultural systems approach to change”. As such, the CSAC adopts a systemic, holistic, and ecological approach to sustainable change.

The Cultural System Approach to Program Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation (CSAPPE)
The CSAPPE is a paradigm for operationalizing the categories of the CSAC in order to effectively design, implement, and evaluate effective CBIs. In other words, CSAPPE provides the processes used to carry out CEHC programs.


CuSAG: The Cultural Systems Analysis Group
Department of Anthropology  |  University of Maryland
0123 Woods Hall  |  College Park, MD 20742 USA
tel. 301-405-1419  | www.cusag.umd.edu
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Last updated 08/07/2012
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