Conceptual models for health education research and practice

Health Educ Res. 1991 Jun;6(2):163-71. doi: 10.1093/her/6.2.163.


Although conceptual models are frequently used to illustrate research questions under investigation, there is a paucity of articles about how to develop conceptual models or their importance to health education research and practice. A number of uses of the term model exist. Therefore, we describe a conceptual model developed to guide health education research or practice as a diagram of proposed causal linkages among a set of concepts believed to be related to a specific public health problem. Although informed by the multicausal models of public health, the conceptual models we describe differ from those models in that they do not incorporate all factors correlated with an endpoint of interest. Rather they show only the small part of the causal web selected for study. Conceptual models differ from theory in that they are not usually concerned with global classes of behavior but with specific types of behavior in specific contexts. They often are informed by more than one theory, as well as by empirical findings. Because of the usefulness of conceptual models in narrowing both research questions and the targets of intervention, we advocate the inclusion of the model development process in public health education research methods courses.

MeSH terms

  • Concept Formation*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Education*
  • Humans
  • Models, Educational*
  • Research Design