Sense of community-belonging and health-behaviour change in Canada

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Abstract

Background

Research indicates that primary prevention targeting individual behaviours should incorporate contextual factors. The objectives of this study are to examine the role of community-belonging and contextual factors on health-behaviour change in Canada, and whether the influence of community-belonging on behaviour change varies by specific types of behaviours and contextual factors.

Methods

Data on individual-level community-belonging, socio-demographics and self-rated health were obtained for 119 693 respondents from the 2007/2008 Canadian Community Health Survey located within 100 health regions across Canada. Contextual factors were based on health-region groupings of socio-economic determinants of health. Multilevel models were used to estimate the influence of community-belonging and health-region contextual factors on general, and specific, health-behaviour changes in the past year.

Results

After controlling for individual and contextual factors, community-belonging showed a positive dose–response relationship with health-behaviour change. Health-region contextual factors were only slightly associated with behaviour change; however, the influence of community-belonging on behaviour change showed significant variability based on health-region contextual factors. The influence of community-belonging also varied by specific health-behaviour changes, but for most prominent health behaviours (exercise, weight loss and improved diet) the effect was consistent.

Conclusions

Community-belonging was strongly related to health-behaviour change in Canada and may be an important component of population health prevention strategies. Efforts to increase community-belonging, however, need to be considered along with contextual factors.

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