Health Belief Model in Nursing: Definition, Theory & Examples

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  • 0:02 Origin of the Health…
  • 0:37 Health Belief Model as…
  • 1:43 Visualizing the Health…
  • 2:52 Nursing Application of…
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Judi Ebbert
The health belief model is a way of encouraging patients to realize their susceptibility to health conditions with the goal of inspiring positive changes. Learn how nurses can use the health belief model with their patients.

Origin of the Health Belief Model

The health belief model was created in the 1950s by social scientists who wanted to understand why few people responded to a campaign for tuberculosis (TB) screening. The scientists discovered that people were not participating because they neither had symptoms nor recognized their risk, or susceptibility, to TB. The thought of taking time to have a screening test thus felt like a burden: the barriers (not having symptoms and the need to take a test) outweighed the perceived benefits: in this case, treatment for TB if needed.

Health Belief Model as Nursing Tool

The health belief model asserts that when a person believes he or she is susceptible to a health problem with severe consequences, the person will more likely conclude that the benefits outweigh the barriers associated with changing one's behavior to prevent the problem. The health belief model is a great tool for nurses, offering them a theoretical framework for helping their patients prevent chronic disease or, if disease is present, improve quality of life.

Nurses can use this model to clarify patients' perceptions of risk and why they behave in a way that is harmful; this enables nurses to apply strategies that influence patients to make healthy lifestyle changes. Patients' perceptions can be affected by age, sex, and personality. Consider your patients who are overweight and diabetic or those who have high blood pressure and eat processed convenience foods high in sodium. Think about those who never use sunscreen or have a family history of cancer yet refuse screening tests. You can use the health belief model in all of these situations.

Visualizing the Health Belief Model

The health belief model diagram in this lesson is depicted in the context of a person. In the diagram, the person on the left doubts there is risk and is thus not likely to take action. Note the factors in the middle, however, that influence the person's perception of the situation. Media messages and advice from health care providers and family and friends, may convince the person that the risk is a significant threat. These cues to action may influence the person to change an unhealthy behavior into a healthy one.

Health Belief Model Infographic

A patient's barriers to getting help or making a behavior change, such as in this case giving up smoking, could be anxiety about losing the sensation created by nicotine and discomfort with changing a familiar and comfortable habit. When presented with accurate knowledge of the possible consequences of continued smoking, however, the patient may decide the barrier looks small by comparison. The potential for serious illness or death may make the temporary inconvenience or discomfort seem less significant, and the individual may be more likely to move from inaction to action.

Nursing Application of the Model

Nurses typically spend more time with patients than any other practice team member, and they are key providers of patient-centered resources and education. Imagine you have the perfect plan to help a patient with chronic bronchitis quit smoking. Fortunately, the patient's chest x-ray is clear, and lung cancer is not suspected. By following your simple plan, the patient would have fewer bronchitis episodes and be able to break a costly habit that increases risk for smoking-related cancer and heart disease.

How frustrating then that the patient still smokes despite the fact that you have shared your plan orally and in writing multiple times! Why does this patient appear to refuse help? The health belief model can help you understand why, and help you modify your plan to increase the patient's chance for good health through behavioral change.

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