Community Conceptual Model – Web of Causation

Table of Contents


The occurrence of diseases in a community is a significant factor in the general wellbeing of that community. In the past, public health and nursing practice discovered that diseases were caused by a microorganism and developed the germ theory. However, this theory faced a snag when it was discovered that diseases could be caused by an array of factors yet this one focused on a single cause (Ervin, 2002, p. 112). Using a single cause factor seemed very detrimental because it would end up causing treatment of the symptom rather than the cause of the disease. The classic epidemiology concept was developed to offer a better understanding of the complicated disease causation process. However, this model also faced the challenge of addressing only infectious diseases. Epidemiologists started thinking in terms of chains of causation to address the issue of multi-causality and this thought later lead to the development of the web of causation in 1960 because the ‘chain’ was so simple (Ervin, 2002, p. 112). The web of causation is the interrelationship of several disease-causing or risk factors that contributes to leading to a specific disease or medical condition.

Major Concepts of the Model

The concept of the web of causation is a unique model of understanding the causes of a medical condition in a community because it addresses the specific relationships that the victim has with the possible causes. An example is the relationships that exist between psychological problems and social stressors. The two factors could be connected in several ways that all interrelate in a manner that clearly shows that these factors cause the problem (Ervin, 2002, p. 122). Only a web can depict the interrelationships especially connecting etiological factors.

Diseases causative factors can be categorized into three concepts namely, the agent, the host, and the environment, and the three variables form the epidemiologic triad. When there is an agent, a host all existing in favorable condition pathogenesis may not commence (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2004, 134). There has to be an interaction of the three factors. When the three factors combine, then the onset of the disease will be determined and also its distribution in the community will be directed by these factors.

The agent: this was initially used to describe diseases causes like parasitic organisms or infectious agents. Currently, agent describes a range of factors that can lead to medical problems including heat, dust, stress, machines, excess weight, and shortage of nutrients and toxins among others (Ervin, 2002, p. 125). Deficiencies of some factors are also identified as agents like lack of employment, poor nutrition, or despair in life.

The host: this was initially identified as the target organism for a particular disease but today, it’s known that it could be the factor contributing to disease occurrence. For public health intervention, the host has to be a preventer of disease and also actively contribute to the healing process (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2004, 134). The host is not merely a biological link but a complex system that leads to diagnosis.

The environment: this includes the surroundings in which the agent and host live or occur. There are physical factors including water, air, and solid pollution to the environment.

Application to Nursing Process

The goal of nursing in the medical field is to offer the best intervention or treatment of simple diseases and complex medical conditions (Anderson & McFarlane, 2005, 82). This requires extensive nursing knowledge which includes a combination of theoretical understanding of medicine, the latest empirical studies, and conventional decision-making ability. Web of causation offers the best tool for nurses and doctors to study, research, and understand all the aspects that precipitate the occurrence of a certain medical condition (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2004, 137). Information from such studies offers the practitioners the best chance to find the best resolution to the prevailing condition.

Web of causation is not just a theory but a way of explaining how some public health problems occur and also reminded practitioners that causal pathways are complicated and interconnected no matter how a simple situation may seem. It would be better for nurses to look at all possible causes and then apply all possible solutions (Clark, 2008, p. 167).

Some of the public health problems where the web of causation has been used for intervention include hypertension myocardial infarction, mental disease, and ischemic heart disease among other diseases.

Hypertension can be caused by stress, too much intake of salt, lack of physical activities. Smoking or hereditary factor can be another risk factor. This can hence be exacerbated by the occurrence of atherosclerosis (Clark, 2008, p. 167). Still, the occurrence of hypertension and atherosclerosis can lead to blood clots or emboli floating blood vessels thus causing blockade and precipitating into myocardial infarction when the clot clogs the blood arteries.

Excess consumption of fatty foods, smoking lack of exercise, and being overweight can also cause coronary heart disease which is a serious public health problem in the world today (Clark, 2008, p. 169). The causative agents are sedentary lifestyles and human behavior meaning that preventive interventions are available.

Community Partnership and Projects

Community partnerships are beneficial when addressing public health problems because of a number of reasons. Basically, community health projects offer holistic approaches to dealing with community problems. The goal of public health is also meant for the public good and conserves the integrity of the people participating (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2004, 142). Health is a very complex concept that affects individuals, communities, and the whole world society hence the factors of the community can affect the whole nation.

In order to empower a targeted community, there needs to be adequate collaboration in order to meet the goal of improved community health. It’s also obvious that community health is interrelated to the way organizations relate with families, individuals, and communities (Anderson & McFarlane, 2005, 89). This, therefore, means understanding the concerns of individuals also requires the involvement of collective community perception so that health is understood at the society level. Collaboration also builds a sense of belonging in the community. This will increase the amount of cooperation when working on the community project as the community feels equitable and has a sense of ownership of the health projects (Anderson & McFarlane, 2005, 89).

Reference List

Anderson, F & McFarlane, M. (2005). Community as Partner: Theory and Practice in Nursing. (4th Ed.) Philadelphia: Lippincott

Clark, M. (2008). “Community Health Nursing: Advocacy For Population Health,” (5th Ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Ervin, N. (2002). “Advanced Community Health Nursing Practice,” Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Stanhope, M., & Lancaster, J. (2004). “Community and Public Nursing,” (6th Ed.) St. Louis: Mosby.

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