• explanatory models;
  • health beliefs;
  • health promoting behaviors

Purpose: To address the lack of information in nursing for delivering culturally appropriate care and provide a framework for nurses to incorporate diverse beliefs and health needs into research and practice. People interpret and react to health and illness events within a cultural system. However, the nursing literature contains little about how to elicit cultural beliefs.

Organizing Framework: Use of Kleinman's (1980) concept of explanatory models (EMs) is explored first, by describing the concept as it was developed by Kleinman, and second, by illustrating how it was used in three research studies conducted between 1990 and 1994.

Method: Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with community-based convenience samples. Data were analyzed using content analysis. Explanatory models were explored with healthy people, with people following illness, and with people having a condition with potential health risks, to illustrate their usefulness in nursing research and practice.

Conclusions: The findings provide a beginning understanding of the complex linkages between beliefs and actions and demonstrate the versatility and usefulness of EMs for nursing research and practice. Assessing models offers one means for researchers and clinicians to explore health beliefs and the linkages between beliefs and behaviors.