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Describe Ecological Model of Health

Running head: ECOLOGICAL MODEL 1

Ecological Model of Health

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Ecological Model of Health

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS is an illness that “alters the immune

system” (Cohen, 2015, p. 3). This is commonly transmitted through sexual contact, but also

through blood transfusions or contaminated hypodermic needles. According to research, the

origins of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) date back to the late nineteenth or early

twentieth century in west-central Africa, but came to be identified and recognized in the early

1980s. This paper discusses how the ecological model can stop the AIDS pandemic, which

according to the United Nation AIDS organization (UNAIDS) (2016), was comprised of

approximately “36.7 million people worldwide…at the end of 2015. Of these, 1.8 million were

children (<15 years old)” (para. 1).

HIV/AIDS in the African American Community.

AIDS has become a major health problem in the African American community, where

men and women of every age and sexual orientation are affected. According to the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2016), “an estimated 73% (14,305) were men and 26%

(5,128) were women…African Americans account for a higher proportion of new HIV

diagnoses, those living with HIV, and those diagnosed with AIDS” (para. 1). This statistic shows

that African Americans are also more likely to face challenges than other races in the HIV

pandemic. Without proper knowledge and education, partners are at risk and other sexually

transmitted diseases are prevalent. A study of 9,113 patients in eleven U.S cities found that

African Americans are facing challenges with AIDS because of “poverty and lack to access to

health care prevention services, and treatment… especially among those who fall below the

poverty level” (Salinas, Haacker & Markus, 2006, p. 17). This is emphasizing that the public


health community needs to give more attention to solving their challenge when it comes to

accessing healthcare, so they are able to receive HIV therapies more easily.


Behavior is the other component of the ecological model that public health can apply to

stop the pandemic. It is important for public health to promote behavior change by cautioning

people about their personal behavior, in terms of avoiding sexual encounters at an early age with

multiple partners, and/or without using condoms, and avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol.

Alcohol and drugs play a major role in promoting the spread of HIV/AIDs. Alcohol does not

cause HIV infections; however, alcohol reduces the ability to think clearly and makes people less

inhibited. As a result, people may be more likely to make impulsive decisions and have

unprotected sex. Practicing safe sex protocols will go far toward decreasing the pandemic.

People become uneasy when talking about a topic such as sex and condoms; they might

not want to think that their child is having sex. Because of sex education not happening enough

in the home, young teenagers will learn about sex education from media and peers. If awareness

is started from parents, family members, and schools, such as through prevention programs,

people may think more about safe sex. This nation needs realistic prevention programs that deal

with the real issues, and parents need to stop being squeamish when they talk about sex and

condoms with young people. A health care professional needs to treat sex education in the same

way as any other type of education, to begin sex education at an earlier age, and to include

dialogue about pleasure, consent, and healthy relationships.


Social Networks

One way through which public health agencies, such as health clinics and hospitals, can

apply the component of the ecological model to eradicate the AIDs pandemic globally is through

educating people about its causes, transmission, testing and treatment. Providing brochures or

pamphlets showing AIDS mortality statistics in waiting rooms can help increase awareness of

the impact of the disease. This could also provide information on the provision of care to the

infected, and how to manage and stop the spread of the disease. People will read these brochures

while they are waiting, so they will have adequate time to understand the risk and increase their

understanding about the disease. This information will empower people about the disease, as

well as ensure that its spread is reduced.


One’s physical environment, which comprises living and working conditions, is another

component that public health can address in stopping the AIDS pandemic. Worksite, neighbor

and peer atmosphere greatly influences how a person thinks and acts through what they observe

happening around them. The issue of unsafe living conditions increases risk factors which affect

the AIDS pandemic, and these may include “rape, drug use and sharing of syringes among

others. Working conditions that are not satisfactory, such as sexual abuse need to be addressed

[because] they contribute to the AIDS pandemic increase” (Moss & Bacchetti, 2008, p. 997).

Public health agencies should educate people on how to protect themselves from the various

factors listed, and on how to deal with them by reporting and seeking medical help immediately

if needed. Seeking immediate treatment, for example after rape, ensures that the victim is

protected from the virus and disease. The intervention of public health in such unsafe


environments should be made accessible so that physicians can treat, counsel and educate



The fourth component of the model that public health may use to stop the AIDS

pandemic has to do with the social environment. This deals with addressing the community,

family and social networks that people are part of. Public health should analyze different social

environments that people live in so as to successfully address the AIDS pandemic. This is mainly

due to the fact that “people may tend to form their attitudes towards the disease depending on

their environment atmosphere [or community]” (Robinson & Moodie-Mills, 2012, para. 1). For

example, public health should form groups and educate people as a community about the effects

of the disease on both the community and family, an undertaking that will raise awareness

among all members. This is likely to help the community to be cautious and responsible for its

actions, as well as prevent any negative behaviors that may increase chances of people acquiring

the disease.

Additionally, health care professionals should address the issue of the stigma family and

social networks have toward the AIDS pandemic and those suffering from it, and which hinder

people from seeking help and knowing their status. There are a lot of stigmas associated with

HIV such as being “rejected by family, friends and even the community, and negative attitudes

and mistreatment directed to people living with HIV/AIDS” (Amo-Adjei & Darteh, 2013, p. 51).

Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action, and it is the main reason why

too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek

treatment. Therefore, it helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace

of speaking about it, or taking easily available precautions.


To overcome this dilemma, emotional support strengthens the feeling of self-worth and

belonging so that the burden from stigma can be decreased. People with HIV/AIDS can be

encouraged to attend counseling sessions provided by health professionals. Care providers need

to build informal group chat support for AIDS survivors and people who test either positive and

negative, and health educator centers that can decrease the gap between formal and informal

social support. Even if this kind of semi-formal support does not provide the closeness that

friends provide, it provides a higher level of confidence for the individuals with HIV/AIDS.

Public Policy / Societal

On July 13, 2010, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) was released by President

Obama to refocus efforts to slow the spread of HIV, and has improved the health of those who

are infected. The goals of the NHAS are to “reduce new HIV infections by 25% by 2015,” and

this will be done by educating Americans, especially teens, about the life-threatening disease and

how to prevent it (U.S Department of Health & Human Service, 2016, para. 1). Another goal is

increasing access to care and improving health care outcomes for people living with the disease.

This will entail creating a system to connect people to continual and coordinated quality care,

once they are aware of infection, which includes access to prevention and care.

There are numerous health care access options for people, whether the option is a web-

based resource, walk in clinic, or retail clinic. Having different ways people can receive health

care is important because some people will not use web-based resources but prefer a walk-in

clinic, and vice versa. Online networking and traditional publicity such as TV, radio, and print,

are still suitable resources in increasing access to health care.


The Health Care Reform Act will have a positive impact on persons living with

HIV/AIDS. President Obama just signed this piece of legislation to make sure that people living

with HIV will not have to wait for the infection to progress in order to be eligible for Medicaid.

Individuals living with HIV/AIDS will have increased access to private health insurance because

there is no longer discrimination based on health status, gender or socioeconomic level. Investing

in prevention and wellness initiatives will help promote good health and reduce health care costs.

The United States has made tremendous progress against HIV/AIDS in averting new infections

and helping people live longer, healthier lives with effective treatments and medications.

Summary and Conclusion

The AIDS pandemic has continued to increase ever since the first case was reported, and

has become a crisis. Public health agencies can use the ecological model to contain the

pandemic. The components of the model, which health professionals can apply, include

individual behavior, social and physical environment, community and policy. By addressing the

factors and issues that each component deals with, and which cause the pandemic, public health

agencies should be able to come up with proper measures to counter the HIV/AIDS crisis.

AIDS prevention will save time and money. It is important that every HIV prevention

dollar is spent wisely and effectively; therefore, every citizen needs to have a host of prevention

tools for the targeted areas such as HIV testing, connections to care, access to condoms, sterile

syringes, risk reduction programs (for both infected and non-infected individuals), antiretroviral

therapy for infected persons, and screening and treatment for other sexually transmitted diseases

or infections.



Amo-Adjei, J., & Darteh, E. (2013). Drivers of young people’s attitudes towards HIV/AIDS

stigma and discrimination: Evidence from Ghana. African Journal of Reproductive

Health / La Revue Africaine De La Santé Reproductive, 17(4), 51-59.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). HIV among African Americans.

Retrieved from

Cohen, J. (2015). A live look at the AIDS virus. The Journal of Science, 1-6.

Moss, O., & Bacchetti, T. W., (2008). The cause of AIDS. Science, 242(4881), 997-998.

Robinson, R & Moodie-Mills, A.C. (2012). HIV/AIDS Inequality: Structural barriers to

prevention, treatment, and care in communities of color. Retrieved from


Salinas, G., Haacker, & Markus. (2006). HIV/AIDS: The impact on poverty and inequality. The

Journal of International Monetary Fund. 1-22.

U.S Department of Health & Human Service (2016). What is the national HIV/AIDS strategy?

Retrieved from


United Nation AIDS (UNAIDS). (2016). Global HIV/AIDS overview. Retrieved from

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