Secular Social Change
John R. Finnegan, Jr.
The concept of secular social change in → Health Communication studies emanates from the findings of quasi-experimental community and group randomized trials of health promotion campaigns (→ Health Campaigns, Communication in ; Prevention and Communication ). Specifically, many longitudinally designed intervention studies have discovered that outcome variables of interest (e.g., knowledge, beliefs, behaviors) often show changes over time trending in the same direction both in the intervention groups – where the campaigns have been introduced – and in the “control” communities or groups, though often stronger in the former than the latter ( Finnegan & Viswanath 2002 ). Findings suggest therefore that secular change is continuous though not constant. Because of this, the goal of health intervention trials often is to demonstrate that change can be accelerated beyond the secular trend in control communities or groups. This has important ramifications for health communication theory and application through intervention and study design and measurement. Many fields of study regularly examine secular trends to explain and sometimes predict large-scale cycles of human activities, events, and outcomes. Thus economists have observed long-term trends in such complex areas as the relationship between population savings and consumption in order to understand the dynamics of economic ... log in or subscribe to read full text
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