Theories & Approaches: The Health Belief Model
The Health Belief Model (HBM) is among the most widely used conceptual frameworks for understating health behavior.
HBM was developed in the 1950s by social psychologists Hochbaun, Kegels and Rosenstock while working in the U.S Public Health services.
While the model was initially developed in response to the failure of a free TB screening program, it has since then been adapted to explore a variety of short- and long-term health behaviors, including the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexual risk behaviors.
Chief statements and assumptions underlying the HBM
This psychological model is based on the understanding that an individual will take a health related assumption (such as using condoms) if that individual:
1. Thinks it is possible to avoid a negative health condition (such as an STI)
2. Has a reasonable expectation that he/she will certainly avoid the negative health condition (e.g. the effectiveness of a proven method such as condom use in preventing the transmission of HIV).
3. Believes that they can successfully take the recommended health action (e.g. he/she can use condoms with confidence).
HBM is a framework that motivates people to take positive health actions using their desire to avoid negative health consequences as the prime motivation.
Taking HIV as a negative health consequence, the desire o avoid this conditions can be used to convince individuals who are sexually active to start practicing safe sex.
Similarly the threat of suffering a heart attack can motivate individual who are at risk to start exercising more often. In other words, the model simply describes a combination of personal risk analysis, followed by the evaluation and use of the proposed solution.
The HBM is also one of the most effective frameworks that can be used in the development of health education strategies.
A broad research study reviewed 46 studies of HBM-based prevention programs published in a 10 year period between 1974 and 1984.
The programs focuses on a range of health actions and the results of the subsequent meta-analysis provided substantial empirical support for the efficacy of HBM.
The Health Belief Model is based on six key concepts. These are:
1. Perceived susceptibility – the individual’s belief of the chances of getting afflicted by a condition
2. Perceived severity – the individual’s belief of how serious the condition and its consequences are.
3. Perceived benefits – the individual’s belief in the efficacy of effectiveness of the action advised to reduce the risk (seriousness of impact).
4. Perceived barriers – the individual’s belief in the psychological and tangible costs o the advised behavior.
5. Cues to action – these are strategies used to active readiness.
6 Self efficacy – confidence in the individual’s ability to take action.