Health Belief Model in message framing

What is it for?

Health Belief Model (HBM) theorizes how our beliefs influence our attitudes and then actions. Previous posts about its origin in the 1960s, a review decade after its introduction, and another review 60 years later in 2010 provide a detailed understanding of the model.

How does it occur according to the Model?

Our attitudes depend on six types of belief constructs:

  1. Perceived susceptibility to the condition 
  2. Perceived seriousness of the condition
  3. Perceived benefits of the action recommended  
  4. Perceived barriers to adopting the action recommended  
  5. Perceived ability to perform the action
  6. Availability of cues to action to be taken   

How does it help in message framing?

Let us think that we want to craft a message aimed at promoting a mammogram using this model.     

1. To enhance perceived susceptibility – This is the strongest predictor of behaviour change. So, it is critically important to spend more space and time on this element than on other constructs. 

How can we do that?

– The inclusion of a visual that resonates with the target audience
– Prompting them to think of someone of their age, gender and other characteristics with the condition
– highlighting risk factors and their strong relationship with the condition. We could use age and sex-related statistics!
– Showing how soon one could get the condition in the presence of those risk factors 
– If possible, use a celebrity with the condition

If we are working with a team, we could brainstorm to come up with novel ideas.   

2. To enhance perceived seriousness – This could be highlighted by using visuals, risk levels of death, disability, loss of income, family, and other relationships if the intended audience is affected by the condition.    

3. To assist in perceiving benefits – highlight personal benefits specific to the target audience when compared to someone with the condition. 

4. To overcome perceived barriers – addressing myths, increasing availability and accessibility to either products or services, citing places that they could obtain those.  

4. Cues to action – frequent reminders, incentives, small gifts, highlighting participating rates, organising launching events, volunteer projects, T-shirts, mass walks, runs, enhancing the attractiveness of the message using white space, rhyming phrases, using the same message in different ways at different places. 

6. To increase self-efficacy – providing training, simplifying the recommended action, opening more training places with attractive enrolment packages, positively reinforcing desired behaviours, and actions, and regular skills assessments.    

Author: Prasantha De Silva

A specialist in Community Medicine board-certified in Sri Lanka and a research analyst in Canada

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