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The Health Belief Model Explained

Health educators use this time-tested tool to promote healthier behaviors.

In the 1950s, researchers at the U.S. Public Health Service developed the Health Belief Model to help understand the ways people respond to perceived health risks.

“For example, the Public Health Service was sending mobile X-ray units out to neighborhoods to offer free chest X-rays (screening for tuberculosis),” write the authors of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice. “Despite the fact that this service was offered without charge in a variety of convenient locations, the program was of limited success. The question was, ‘Why?’”1

Finding answers to the “why?” led to the creation of the Health Belief Model, which is still widely used today. Master’s candidates earning health education and promotion degrees online often study theories like the Health Belief Model to learn how to design effective programs and interventions.

The U.S. Public Health Service researchers identified six key concepts that can move people to take steps to safeguard their health. They are:1

  • Perceived susceptibility: Beliefs about the chance of getting a condition
  • Perceived severity: Beliefs about the seriousness of a condition and its consequences
  • Perceived benefits: Beliefs about the effectiveness of taking action to reduce risk of seriousness
  • Perceived barriers: Beliefs about the material and psychological costs of taking action
  • Cues to action: Factors that activate “readiness to change”
  • Self-efficacy: Confidence in one’s ability to take action

The NCI report offers an approach to high blood pressure treatment as a Health Belief Model example.

“… Asymptomatic people may not follow a prescribed treatment regimen unless they accept that, though they have no symptoms, they do in fact have hypertension (perceived susceptibility). They must understand that hypertension can lead to heart attacks and strokes (perceived severity). Taking prescribed medication or following a recommended weight loss program will reduce the risks (perceived benefits) without negative side effects or excessive difficulty (perceived barriers),” according to the report.1

Next are the cues to action, which the NCI says might include print materials, reminder letters, or pill calendars. Finally, to boost confidence, the health education plan might include a contract with small, doable, short-term goals (self-efficacy).1

Health Education Fosters Wellness

If creating effective health education and promotion programs is your ambition, then you may want to consider earning an MS in Health Education and Promotion online at Walden University.

Walden offers one of the few online degree programs dedicated exclusively to health education and promotion. Its curriculum is aligned with the Seven Areas of Responsibility for Health Educators outlined by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC). And its coursework can prepare you to sit for the national Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) exams, two career-enhancing certifications.

An online master’s in health education and promotion degree can lay the foundation for direct service or leadership roles in settings such as health departments, government, NGOs, schools, and healthcare facilities. And if you choose a career as a health education specialist or community health worker, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says you can expect to find much faster than average job growth through 2030.2

Another pathway to a public health career is via Walden’s online Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program. This public health degree program is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), which means the program meets accepted public health profession standards in practice, research, and service. A public health master’s degree can open doors to public health jobs that include epidemiologist,3 public health analyst, and occupational health and safety specialist.4

Walden designs its online health education and public health degree programs for working professionals who want to earn a degree while continuing to work full time and enjoy their personal lives. Walden gives you the freedom to log in to your coursework when and where it’s most convenient for you.

If you’re ready to take your passion for health education and public health to the next level, you might be ready for an online master’s degree program that can help you achieve that goal and find the career satisfaction you seek.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering MS in Health Education and Promotion and Master of Public Health (MPH) online degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

1Source: www.sbccimplementationkits.org/demandrmnch/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Theory-at-a-Glance-A-Guide-For-Health-Promotion-Practice.pdf
2Source: www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm
3Source: www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/epidemiologists.htm
4Source: www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-health-and-safety-specialists-and-technicians.htm

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

Note on certification: The MS in Health Education and Promotion has been designed to reflect the Seven Areas of Responsibility for Health Educators outlined by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) and to prepare students to sit for the national Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) exams. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide information relating to national certification exams; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all requirements relating to national certification exams for the state in which he or she intends to practice. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain national certification. For more information about the CHES and MCHES exams, students should visit www.nchec.org.

Note on accreditation: The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) Board of Councilors acted at its September 6, 2019, meeting to accredit the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Walden University for a five-year term, based on an application for accreditation submitted on February 3, 2018. On June 5, 2020, the CEPH Board of Councilors accredited the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) at Walden University, after reviewing an accreditation application submitted on April 21, 2020. CEPH is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health and programs of public health. CEPH accreditation provides assurance that the program has been evaluated and met accepted public health profession standards in practice, research, and service. For a copy of the final self-study document and/or final accreditation report, please contact the dean of the College of Health Sciences and Public Policy ([email protected]).

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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