Variations in Lay Health Theories: Implications for Consumer Health Care Decision Making

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Wide variations in how contemporary consumers think about health and make health care decisions often go unrecognized by health care marketers and public policy decision makers. In the current global environment, prevailing Western viewpoints on health and conventional biomedicine are being challenged by a countervailing belief system forming the basis for alternative health care practices. The ways American consumers once thought about health have changed and multiplied in this new era of competing health paradigms. Our study provides empirical evidence for this assertion in two ways. First, it demonstrates that in the current environment consumers think about health and health care in a multiplicity of very different ways, leading to the conclusion that we should not classify health care consumers as either conventional or alternative. Second, the results provide clues as to how individuals holding diverse health theories make health care decisions that impact health behaviors, treatment efficacy, and satisfaction judgments.

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