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Last updated February 14, 2001


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Health Belief Model

Explanation of Theory:

"The Health Belief Model is a value expectancy theory, which states that
an individualís behavior can be 
predicted based upon certain issues that an individual may consider (i.e. perceived susceptibility, perceived severity) when making a decision about a particular behavior concerning their health" (Glanz, Lewis, & Rimer, 1990).

Theorist: Hochbaum


Primary Article:

    Hochbaum, G.M. (1958). Public participation in medical screening programs: A sociopsychological study. PHS publication no. 572. Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Government Printing Office.

Individual Interpretations:

The Health Belief Model is an archetypal pattern used to evaluate or influence an individualís behavioral changes in regard to a particular health condition.  The model suggests that the likelihood that an individual will take action
concerning a health condition is determined by the personís desire to take action and by the perceived benefits of the action weighed against the perceived costs of barriers.  The model also evaluates how an individual estimates their susceptibility to a condition and the benefits of detection and treatment for that particular illness.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

We believe that the Health Belief Model is a humanistic theory.  Our belief is 
based on each of the theoryís metatheoretical assumptions.  Here is a brief list of our findings...

Epistemology:  This theory is comprised of multiple truths because it applies to different situations and individuals in various ways.  The knowledge gained is interpretive in nature.
Ontology:  This theory relies heavily on free will because the actions involved are determined by each individual.  This is an active theory. 
Axiology:  This theory is value-laden because beliefs and values play a huge role in the ideology of this theory.


Although the Health Belief Model does have a few characteristics of a scientific theory such as explanatory and predictive power, we feel that the theory is definitely rooted in the humanistic perspective.  Therefore, we used Farrellís Nonscientific Criteria for this analysis.

Analytic Consistency:  Strong; we can see where this theory originated from and why it makes sense.
Methodological Rigor:  Fairly strong; from the examples I studied think this theory
is precisely formulated and carefully applied.
Intuitive Credibility:  Very credible; this theory is both applied and practical.
Heuristic Value:  Strong; I can see this theory being applied in many other fields, particularly the social sciences.

According to these criteria, the Health Belief Model is a solid and effective humanistic theory.

Ideas and Implications:

One possible implication for this theory would be to use the model to create effective health campaigns involving college students and STD awareness.


One could use the Health Belief Model to evaluate how college students perceive both their susceptibility to STDs and the severity of theses type of diseases.  One could then look at how these perceptions influence the health behaviors of college students.  Does perceived knowledge about susceptibility and severity influence students to take actions
such as practicing safe sex or abstinence?  Do college students feel the perceived benefits of STD prevention action outweigh the perceived barriers to this preventive action?

Relevant Research:

    Bowdy, M. (1998). The cues to behavior change model: integration of the health
belief model and the transtheoretical model. Unpublished masterís thesis,
University of Kentucky, Lexington.

     Hochbaum, G.M., Sorenson, J.R., & Lorig, K. (1992). Theory in Health Education Practice. Health Education Quarterly, 19(3), 293-313.

     Salazar, M.K. (1991). Comparison of four behavioral theories: A literature review. AAOHN Journal, 39(3): 128-135.

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

    Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. N/A

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A