Agency-Based Empowerment Interventions: Efforts to Enhance Decision-Making and Action in Health and Development

Anita V Shankar, Siddhi Sundar, Genevieve Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper outlines the critical role of personal agency in influencing health and development outcomes and presents a framework for implementing non-therapeutic cognitive-behavioral interventions that foster agency, especially for women, in resource-poor settings. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has placed “empowerment” at the center of global targets, particularly to improve individuals’ health and development. Despite extensive research on individual and community empowerment, there is limited focus on the role of psychological and behavioral approaches directly fostering individual and collective agency in health programs. Fundamental to this process is the understanding that decision-making is an interaction between mental processes and one’s current context. Approaches that allow individuals to understand how their beliefs, values, emotions, and thoughts impact their behaviors and can be modulated to increase their personal agency are needed. This model is illustrated through a pilot behavioral intervention with women engaged in sex work in Pune, India, demonstrating substantive benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Behavioral Health Services and Research
StateAccepted/In press - Feb 23 2018


  • Cognitive behavioral approaches
  • Development
  • Empowerment
  • Personal agency
  • Women’s health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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