A curricular initiative to advance the field of health behavior change


Currently, 4 out of 5 Canadians are at risk of developing a chronic disease and over 150,000 Canadians die from a preventable chronic disease each year. There is a critical need for competent allied health professionals in primary and secondary prevention. Recent theoretical advances in exercise psychology combined with the changing health needs of our communities requires a re-examination of curriculum. Specifically, curriculum that enables students to develop theoretical knowledge and skills to become health and exercise professionals who can work effectively with individuals and communities to adopt and adhere to health behaviors is needed. The aim of this project was to develop a concentration (aka specialization) in health behavior change within an undergraduate program. This project involved seeking input from experts in the field, current and former students, and community partners via surveys and group meetings. Reviews of institutional strategic plans and priorities of the BC Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training were also conducted. The result was a senate and ministry approved concentration that explicitly outlines a set of core exercise science learning outcomes along with specialized health behavior change learning outcomes. In addition, the project led to the development of a set of skill-based and professional-based competencies that students are assessed on prior to and at the completion of a 180-hour community-based practicum. In sum, this concentration is an example of curriculum renewal that can provide students the knowledge, skills and experience to transition into the community as competent health behavior change professionals.