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 focuses on 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.
  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign that uses the Health Belief Model to inform audiences about breast cancer. During the month of October, organizations may offer free screenings and education to raise public awareness and identify early cases of breast cancer.

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 assessment and other approaches, to determine who is at risk and the population(s) of focus.
  • Conveying the consequences of risk behaviors clearly to understand perceived severity.
  • Communicating the steps involved in taking the recommended action and highlighting the benefits to action.
  • Helping to identify and reduce barriers to action.
  • Demonstrating actions through skill development activities and providing support to enhance 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 intended population.

Resources to Learn More

Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice (Second Edition)
Describes the origins, constructs, and applications of the Health Belief Model, which focuses on how beliefs influence health-related behaviors or action.
Author(s): Rimer, B.K. & Glanz, K.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute
Date: 09/2005