Skip to main content
Rural Health Information Hub

The Health Belief Model

The Health Belief Model is a theoretical model that can be used to guide health promotion and disease prevention programs. It is used to explain and predict individual changes in health behaviors. It is one of the most widely used models for understanding health behaviors.

Key elements of the Health Belief Model focus on individual beliefs about health conditions, which predict individual health-related behaviors. The model defines the key factors that influence health behaviors as an individual's perceived threat to sickness or disease (perceived susceptibility), belief of consequence (perceived severity), potential positive benefits of action (perceived benefits), perceived barriers to action, exposure to factors that prompt action (cues to action), and confidence in ability to succeed (self-efficacy).

Health Belief Model Examples

  • The Michigan Model for Health™ is a curriculum designed for implementation in schools. It targets social and emotional health challenges including nutrition, physical activity, alcohol and drug use, safety, and personal health, among other topics. This model adapts components of the Health Belief Model related to knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, and environmental support.

Considerations for Implementation

The Health Belief Model can be used to design short- and long-term interventions. The five key action-related components that determine the ability of the Health Belief Model to identify key decision-making points that influence health behaviors are:

  • Gathering information by conducting a health needs assessments and other efforts to determine who is at risk and the population(s) that should be targeted.
  • Conveying the consequences of the health issues associated with risk behaviors in a clear and unambiguous fashion to understand perceived severity.
  • Communicating to the target population the steps that are involved in taking the recommended action and highlighting the benefits to action.
  • Providing assistance in identifying and reducing barriers to action.
  • Demonstrating actions through skill development activities and providing support that enhances self-efficacy and the likelihood of successful behavior changes.

These actions represent key elements of the Health Belief Model and can be used to design or adapt health promotion or disease prevention programs. The Health Belief Model is appropriate to be used alone or in combination with other theories or models. To ensure success with this model, it is important to identify "cues to action" that are meaningful and appropriate for the target population.

Resources to Learn More

Health Belief Model: Behavioral Change Models
Overview of Health Belief Model in health promotion setting and includes examples for each stage and the limitations of using this model in public health.
Organization(s): Boston University School of Public Health

Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice
Provides information about useful theories for health behavior change and health education practice.
Organization(s): National Cancer Institute
Date: 2005