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How to Identify Barriers to the Desired Result(s) of A Program

What are Barriers in Program Design?

In program design, barriers are factors or road-blocks that stand in the way of achieving the desired result or social change you want to see. As a program planner, it is essential that you have a clear understanding of the most pressing barriers standing in the way of accomplishing the change you want to see.

From a program design perspective, barriers could be behavioral, lifestyle-related or environmental.

What is the difference between behavior, lifestyle and environmental barriers?

Behavior related barriers are specific, observable, often measurable – and usually customary – actions people take that put them at risk for a social problem. For example, Needle-sharing is a behavior that puts heroin addicts at high risk for hepatitis and AIDS.

lifestyle is a collection of related behaviors that go together to form a pattern of living. Accordingly, a lifestyle-related barrier refer to a collection of behavior pattern that put people and communities at risk of a social problem. An example of a high-risk lifestyle related to obesity that is often mentioned in the popular media is one that includes very little exercise, frequent consumption of a diet high in calories and saturated fats, and lots of stress. Such a lifestyle can lead to heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and other problems associated with obesity, including diabetes.

The environment of a particular issue or problem can refer to the natural or physical environment. For example, the character and condition of the water, air, open space, plants, and wildlife, as well as the design and condition of built-up areas like neighborhoods, workplaces e.t.c.

However, it can also refer to the:

  • social environment (influence of family and peers; community attitudes about gender roles, race, childrearing, work, etc.),
  • political environment (policies and laws, such as anti-smoking ordinances, that regulate behavior or lifestyle; the attitudes of those in power toward specific groups or issues), and
  • economic environment (the availability of decent-wage jobs, affordable housing, and health insurance; the community tax base; global economic conditions).

Program planners can identify one, two, or more barriers for each desired result identified. But for learning, I encourage learners to limit theirs to one or two at most. Notwithstanding, great programs address barriers that are specific and prioritized by the target population.  

Determining Focal Barriers

Since there are a multitude of barriers to choose from, how do you determine which barrier to focus on and subsequently address?

The key is to identify all you can identify, and then prioritize. That is, pick out the top key barriers to accomplishing a desired result. During needs assessment phase of program development, our conversation with the community/target population through physical interactions or secondary research should helps us make our pick. These two resources will show you how to prioritize by applying Critical Thinking and asking the But Why question:

Consider these examples of barriers:

  • Barrier (to physical health outcomes for children): e.g.  “High prevalence of obesity among children aged 2 – 12 years.”
  • Barrier (to achieving a decrease in skin cancer prevalence):  e.g., “Frequent exposure to ultraviolet rays among Caucasian women aged 35 -50 years living in Georgia County.”
  • Barrier (to achieving an increase in skin cancer awareness among men): e.g., skin cancer historically and popularly perceived as affecting mostly women.

Finally, and very importantly, always remember the barriers you identify and prioritize should be those standing in the way of accomplishing your desired results.

You turn… Practice writing at least two barriers to the desired result for your program

Do not forget to leave your comments or questions in the box below. Also, feel free to let me know what topics you would like me to discuss in future blogs.

To Working Strategies and Authentic Results

It’s Chinnie

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