Interpretation of Ecological Theory for Physical Activity with the Omaha System

Jeanette M. Olsen, Mary J. Baisch, Karen A. Monsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Physical inactivity is a global health problem. Public health nurses (PHNs) have great potential to influence population health outcomes in this area. However, methods are needed to increase understanding of the problem and the impact PHNs may have on measuring and changing health behavior. One promising option is PHN documentation of client health data. However, literature examining how health behavior theories align with nursing documentation systems that use standardized terminology is sparse. The purpose of this article was to operationalize an ecological theory with the Omaha System standardized terminology using physical activity as an exemplar. The goal was to provide a method for using PHN clinical documentation to examine physical activity from a theoretical perspective in research and practice. We designed and used a three-phase process informed by the literature to conceptually map the ecological model for health promotion and the Omaha System. The results of the mapping process reveal the ecological nature of the Omaha System and provide support for measuring and analyzing health-related behavior problems from an ecological perspective with Omaha System data. This process could be replicated with other health-related problems and standardized terminologies to guide theoretically based nursing care and research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Health Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • Omaha System
  • ecological theory
  • physical activity
  • public health nursing


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