Health Belief System Theory and Community Assessment

Health Belief System Theory

Health Models -- an Overview - Within a cultural structure, nothing is ever in isolation. In modern communities, in fact, a number of organizations play a significant role in creating a holisitc concept of lifestye: religion, individual culture, education, and ethnicity for example. Within modern medical thought there are really two basic paradigms of thought regarding the basis for health: the organic paradigm and the harmonious paradigm. For the organic model, especially prior to the 20th century, the idea of illness and health had a very different meaning, from mystical to religious, from causality to randomness, but it was not until the more modern era that scientists were empirically able to prove the link between overall health and other social and cultural factors.

Prior to the 20th century, most people believed illness was caused by their lack of faith, random events, or other mythological means. There was little understanding of causality, and even less belief that the world of bacteria and sanitation could contribute to disease. While laughable know, we must remember that many historical figures believed in the draining of blood as a means for healthcare and preventative disease prevention (Kennedy, 2004: 3-11). After the discovery of bacteria and the use of the microscope, the "Bio-Medical Model" (BMM) moved into prominence, believing that specific illness were linked to specific bacteria, viruses, or pathogens. The diseases that wiped out so many in our early history were dealt with by using this model: tuberculosis, measles, chicken pox, etc., However, there were still medical issues that defied this pathogen-based model. (Porter, 1999, Chapter 1). This "germ" model of medicine was a way for Europeans to define, analyze, and as practical philosophy showed -- deal with the issue by killing the germ. Only peripherally did science take into consideration that they germ or the cause might have greater and wider effects. Indeed, the entire idea of vaccination came about precisely because of this germ model of science (James, 1992).

In the East, traditional medicine has combined the causation of disease with the idea of balance and a look at the holistic individual. Indeed, the very term "health," has come to mean more than just an absence of disease, but a more holistic and complete state of being (Porter, 2006). As health professionals began to study the links between mental and physical health, they also noticed that other factors influenced the very character of the debate; economic, political, social, and other models that contributed to a person's overall sense of self and well being. Health as harmony, then, can be defined as the Healthy Psychology Model -- combining Eastern holism with Western organicism.

Community Assessments in Modern Healthcare - Research has shown us many things that can be improved using the holisitc and multi-cultural models, as well as the direction(s) we are suggesting with our new program. Clearly, the empirical research shows us that there are many modifiers that can create illness, modify illness patterns, contribute to healing, and act in a preventative manner. For example, stress in the workplace has a correlation of over 50% in causing or adding-to symptoms, while the more social connections and support groups one has increases both healing time and resistance to stress factors (Adler, 1994, 232-36). Additionally, problems with mild to severe depression, distress, exhaustion are critical in viewing the manner in which an illness manifests, and in which patients are able to handle said illnesses. It is clear that not only mild issues, but one of the United States' top medical issues, heart problems, are accentuated by stress and the environment, and preventable and treatable with the use of the holistic model (Kristensen, 1996, 246-49).

Community Examples -- Meeting the healthcare needs of culturally diverse clients is a very challenging and complex problem for the modern profession. In addition to the growth and change of community-based healthcare, the evolution of diversity in communities and the revolution in care and…