Do you AMSO? Part 1 – “A” is for Awareness

When was the last time you decided to buy a car? Just as soon as you decide on a make and model you want, you start to see your heartthrob vehicle everywhere you look. Amazing huh! Not really! You just turned on your Reticular Activating System, among other things, that mediates what grabs your attention. Your brain is helping you find the object of your desire. Until we amped up our awareness of that car, our brains just dumped that stimulus out of our heads like so much random noise.

Our wellness programs exist to get participants’ brains to seek out healthy behaviors. My recent four-part series on the HRA reflected on how to use HRAs as awareness drivers. Awareness is our starting point and is critical in behavior change! We want the HRA, among other program interventions, to help each individual become aware of health and wellness issues that are relevant to their own present and future health and well-being.

Michael O’Donnell, one of the most prolific and influential leaders in the field of health promotion (AKA Wellness) developed an analytic framework that helps us determine whether a wellness program will actually work—whether it will change the long-term behavior and improve the health of a population. He came up with the acronym “AMSO” to help us remember all four of the key parts of programs that create lasting behavior change.

O’Donnell’s evidence-based finding is that for a wellness program to change behavior, it must do four things. The first requirement is, you guessed it, AWARENESS of health issues for each individual in your population. This Awareness isn’t just a general idea like “we should eat our vegetables.” While general messages are fine, the Awareness here is really about the specific health issues relevant each individual. HRAs are one of the most useful tools for raising awareness of individual own health and wellness issues thus our connection of AMSO to my recent series on HRAs.

To fully realize the awareness potential of the HRA we need to:

  • Have everyone complete an HRA each year.
  • Provide useful and changing information and feedback from the HRA each year.
  • Communicate clearly the consequences of current health choices.
  • Provide easy to understand relevant insights about how they can improve their health present and future.
  • Provide easy to access follow-up interventions in health behavior areas of interest.

We also need to include other ways of raising awareness of health issues for the individual besides the HRA. These other interventions may include: eHealth portals, access to wellness coaches, wellness newsletters, self-help groups, online learning modules and wellness mentor programs. The intentional linking of these potential interventions to maximize awareness in each individual is one of those areas of “art” for the health promotion and wellness practitioner.Next week we’ll look at the “M” in AMSO- a powerful framework for creating effective wellness programing.Don’t forget, strategies for using AMSO is a key area of emphasis in each level of our WellCert worksite wellness certification.

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