BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Health Belief Model



The Health Belief Model (HBM) is a model used to explain and understand health behavior, especially in view of preventing a negative health outcome. The model was developed in the early 1950’s and has been used to develop health education strategies and promote healthy behaviors including condom use, seat belt use, medical compliance, and health screening use. The rationale behind the model is that a person will take a health-related action, for example, eat healthy foods, if that person feels or believes that a negative health condition, for example obesity, can be prevented.

Our culture and belief system have the potential to influence the actions (health behaviour) we take or fail to take regarding our health. Here’s an example- if, by reason of your culture or who you are, you believe that eating unhealthy foods would lead to obesity, then, it’s very likely that you’ll choose to eat healthy foods. On the contrary, if you neither see unhealthy foods as threat to your health nor perceive any benefits from it, then you’re probably not going to care about your diet. As with many models, the flaw here is that the likelihood of making a behaviour chance is not actually an action but an intention, Therefore, it is possible for one to intend to eat healthy foods (perceive weight gain or obesity as a health threat and really want the benefit not being obese) and still not follow it through by eating healthy foods. Structural factors such as cost of healthy foods and proximity to grocery stores are typical reasons why intentions may not translate to behaviour.

In general, the Health Belief Model is structured to inspire people to take positive health actions- example, HIV is a negative health outcome, so, the desire to avoid HIV can be used to motivate sexually active people to practice safe sex. Similarly, the perceived threat of a heart attack can be used to motivate people suffering high blood pressure to engage in physical activity. People choose their behaviors due to various factors such as their beliefs, cultures, education, gender, social class and economic situations. The following are constructs of the HBM:

  1. Perceived Susceptibility: A person’s belief about the probability of ending up with a negative health condition- the subjective perception of the risk of acquiring a condition.
  2. Perceived Severity: A person’s belief of how serious a condition and its consequences will be if acquired- the subjective evaluation of the seriousness of the consequences associated a condition
  3. Perceived Benefits: A person’s conviction of the effectiveness of the advised action to reduce risk or seriousness of the condition- the subjective positive gains of taking a positive health action.
  4. Perceived Barrier: A person’s opinion of the costs and difficulties associated with the advised health behaviour.
  5. Cues to Action: Reminders to take follow through with the advised and intended behaviour.
  6. Self-Efficacy: This represents the confidence in oneself to make follow through with the advised and intended behaviour.

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