Origins of the Model


The Health Belief Model focuses on the individual level and a person’s motivations and attitudes to do or not to do a health behavior. For example, using the HBM we could understand why a person chooses to smoke, do drugs or practice unsafe sex. The model was developed in the 1950s by social scientists at the US Public Health Services, Hochbaum, Rosenstock and Kegels. Trying to identify why individuals failed to get screened for tuberculosis, an infectious disease that affects the lungs, these scientists identified four factors that contributed to person’s decision to make a behavior change. Two more factors were added on after further research into the HBM, for a total of six constructs (University of Pennsylvania, 2018).

The six factors (perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits, perceived barriers, cues to action, and self-efficacy) are accompanied by three core assumptions. First, a person will make a behavior change if they believe that a negative health condition can be avoided. Second, the individual must believe that making a said behavior change is effective in avoiding the negative health condition. Finally, the person must believe they can successfully make the behavior change. Seeing the model’s usefulness, the HBM has been used to address a variety of health behaviors other than screening. Today, it used for a range of health behaviors, primarily (1) preventive health behaviors, (2) sick role behaviors, (3) clinic use (University of Pennsylvania, 2018).