Uptake of preventive health programmes seems to be related to people's underlying motivations, attitudes and beliefs about health and illness. Current theories used to account for variance in behaviours by social group (such as the health belief model and locus of control model) explain only some of the variance in these motivations and attitudes, and have not been adequately tested on women from different ethnic minority groups. Health beliefs have important implications for nursing given the role of the nurse in health promotion and patient teaching. This paper identifies and compares the health beliefs of women of Asian origin and white indigenous women living in an inner-London borough, through in-depth semi-structured interviews, and considers the findings in relation to health promotion practices and the role of the nurse. The Asian women rated their health as worse than the white women; this requires further study. Comments and views gathered about the causes of various diseases indicated that it may be unrealistic to fit a person's health beliefs into a distinct model. Beliefs about disease appeared to be culturally sensitive; health education, therefore, must also be culturally sensitive.