Public health is a multi-disciplinary field that aims to 1) prevent disease and death, 2) promote a better quality of life, and 3) create environmental conditions in which people can be healthy by intervening at the institutional, community, and societal level.
Whether public health practitioners can achieve this mission depends upon their ability to accurately identify and define public health problems, assess the fundamental causes of these problems, determine populations most at-risk, develop and implement theory- and evidence-based interventions, and evaluate and refine those interventions to ensure that they are achieving their desired outcomes without unwanted negative consequences.
To be effective in these endeavors, public health practitioners must know how to apply the basic principles, theories, research findings, and methods of the social and behavioral sciences to inform their efforts. A thorough understanding of theories used in public health, which are mainly derived from the social and behavioral sciences, allow practitioners to:
- Assess the fundamental causes of a public health problem, and
- Develop interventions to address those problems.
Note: This module has been translated into Estonian by Marie Stefanova. The translation can be accessed at
After successfully reviewing these modules, students will be able to:
- List and describe the key constructs of the Health Belief Model and the theory of planned behavior and explain how they might be applied to develop effective public health interventions
- List and describe the elements of "perceived behavioral control"
- Describe the underlying theory and basic elements of Social Norms Theory and marketing campaigns
- List and describe the key constructs of Social Cognitive Theory and explain how they might be applied to develop effective public health interventions
- Summarize the criticisms that have been made regarding the major traditional models of health behavior change and why these models do not seem adequate to account for observed health behaviors
- Outline the major steps in the Transtheoretical Model
- List the characteristics of each step of the Transtheoretical Model
- Describe Diffusion of Innovation Theory and how it can be applied in health promotion
- Outline the basic structures of the Theory of Gender and Power and its application to Public Health
- Explain the constructs of the Sexual Health Model and its application to public health