Definition and Characteristics of Behavioral Medicine, and Main Tasks and Goals of the International Society of Behavioral Medicine—an International Delphi Study

Joost Dekker*, Marie Amitami, Anne H. Berman, Helen Brown, Bryan Cleal, Maria João Figueiras, Lila J. Finney Rutten, Egil A. Fors, Konstadina Griva, Jing Gu, Chris Keyworth, Maria Kleinstäuber, Claas Lahmann, Joseph T.F. Lau, Bernd Leplow, Li Li, Hanna Malmberg Gavelin, Ricarda Mewes, Phoenix K.H. Mo, Barbara MullanFrank J. Penedo, Judith Prins, Teresa Rodríguez Rodríguez, Sharon A. Simpson, Adrienne Stauder, Martti T. Tuomisto, Deborah Jones Weiss, Urs M. Nater

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: In the past decades, behavioral medicine has attained global recognition. Due to its global reach, a critical need has emerged to consider whether the original definition of behavioral medicine is still valid, comprehensive, and inclusive, and to reconsider the main tasks and goals of the International Society of Behavioral Medicine (ISBM), as the umbrella organization in the field. The purpose of the present study was to (i) update the definition and scope of behavioral medicine and its defining characteristics; and (ii) develop a proposal on ISBM’s main tasks and goals. Method: Our study used the Delphi method. A core group prepared a discussion paper. An international Delphi panel rated questions and provided comments. The panel intended to reach an a priori defined level of consensus (i.e., 70%). Results: The international panel reached consensus on an updated definition and scope of behavioral medicine as a field of research and practice that builds on collaboration among multiple disciplines. These disciplines are concerned with development and application of behavioral and biomedical evidence across the disease continuum in clinical and public health domains. Consensus was reached on a proposal for ISBM’s main tasks and goals focused on supporting communication and collaboration across disciplines and participating organizations; stimulating research, education, and practice; and supporting individuals and organizations in the field. Conclusion: The consensus on definition and scope of behavioral medicine and ISBM’s tasks and goals provides a foundational step toward achieving these goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-276
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

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