A Guide to the Web of Causation Theory

You may have heard about the web of causation in your nursing practice or studies. However, you may be unsure of what the term means and its application in nursing. Worry not, for we have compiled a comprehensive guide that will help you understand the elements of the web of causation and its application in healthcare delivery.

Background of the Web of Causation

Disease occurrence is a significant factor affecting the community’s well-being. As a result, public health and nursing practice discovered microorganisms that cause diseases and developed the germ theory.

However, this theory is only applicable where there is only one cause, contrary to the fact that an array of factors causes diseases. Furthermore, in this case, using one cause is detrimental because it focuses on treating a specific symptom rather than the cause of the disease. Following these challenges, theorists developed the classic epidemiology concept to provide a better understanding of the causation process among conditions.

Nonetheless, this theory only addressed infectious diseases, which led to the web of causation. This concept helped to address multi-casualty issues. In this regard, the web of causation investigates the interrelationship between multiple disease-causing factors contributing to a given medical condition or disease.

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Ideally, the concept of web position dates back to 1960 and was developed to represent different pathways that can help to identify the cause of disease or a health problem giving rise to the defined causative risk factors. This model has been applied in community health and nursing to explain the multiple factors which cause disease and disabilities and identify the possible points for preventive measures. 

Concepts of the Web Causation Model

This model explains the factors contributing to disease development in a community setting. Ideally, it addresses the relationship between the cause and victim by connecting the environmental factors. The web causation concept identifies three categories of causation factors, including;


This category includes the elements which cause the disease, such as infectious agents and parasitic organisms. The agent also has a range of factors that can lead to medical problems, such as stress, heat, excessive weight, and a shortage of nutrients. Some deficiencies, such as lack of employment for nutrition and unsatisfied life, are also considered agents of diseases.


The host was initially considered as a target organism of a particular disease. However, a host can be any factor contributing to disease occurrence today. In this case, it is a combination of a complex system that leads to diagnosis.


This element refers to the surroundings in which the host and agents occur. Specifically, it includes physical factors such as air, water, and solid pollution. 

There is an onset of diseases when these three elements interact, which spread to the surrounding community. Therefore, the web of causation model looks into the interrelationship between the elements to help understand the cause of disease and preventive measures.

Application of the Web of Causation in Nursing

Ideally, nurses apply the web of causation theory to explain the multiple factors that can cause diseases and disabilities such as diabetes and hepatitis. Additionally, it explains the complex relationship between the agent, host, and environment and integrates several factors, such as genetics and race to help understand diseases at a community level.

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Additionally, health providers may set targets for their blood glucose levels and develop a diet plan to help prevent the condition from worsening. Specifically, they can recommend healthy meals, regular exercise, and oral medication.

For instance, the American Diabetes Association highlights the importance of using this model in monitoring diabetes in children and adolescents to prevent further complications that may affect their health outcomes. In this case, families have to work with healthcare providers to identify the possible factors, such as the history of diabetes in the family or lifestyle attributed to the health condition.

Moreover, nurses can apply the web of causation model to identify and address the related threats and conditions of problems such as teenage pregnancies. In this case, several factors with complex interactions lead to the development of teenage pregnancies, such as ignorance, peer pressure, and lack of contraceptives.

Application of this Model in Community Health

Nurses can apply the web of causation model to enhance their understanding of non-communicable diseases and identify the possible points for prevention interventions. For instance, when determining the possible ways to prevent type 2 diabetes, healthcare providers can focus on obesity and identify the lifestyle issues which may lead to obesity and, after that, type 2 diabetes.

In this case, the web of causation model summarises the community health information to help in the interpretation of epidemiological relationships and therefore improve health outcomes.

The Need for Community Partnership in Health Projects

Community partnership provides a collaborative effort to improve health outcomes by sharing resources, enhancing opportunities, and combining talent to achieve positive health outcomes. In this case, involving communities is a sign of giving up control and allowing every community member to provide their input, which can help make more informed decisions on healthcare delivery.

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Collaboration empowers community members to creatively develop skills and competencies necessary for teamwork and positive health outcomes. Additionally, allowing the community to participate in health projects extends a democratic process that considers every member’s input, enhancing equity.

Moreover, involving community members in health projects makes it easier for health providers to understand the concerns of the individuals and provide healthcare services that meet the needs of the members of society.

Lastly, collaboration builds on trust because collaboration builds a sense of belonging among community members. Specifically, community members feel that nurses provide healthcare that meets their needs and take care of their concerns. 

Video Guide


How can you create a web of causation?

You can make up a web of causation by putting all the risk factors, causes, and evidence to understand how a disease develops.

Who suggested the model of web causation?

Hugh Leavell and Guerney Clark first documented the web of causation model in 1940.

How does the web of causation theory view a health condition?

The web of causation views a health condition as a result of multiple factors with a complex interrelationship that can increase or decrease disease risk.

What are the leading causes of infections?

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Parasite
  • Viruses

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