Health Promotion is defined as the process of enabling people to increase control over the determinants of health and thereby improve their health (WHO, Ottawa Charter 1986).
Yet Health Promotion has evolved in response to the broader International Public Health and Health Promotion movement. Health promotion not only embraces actions directed at strengthening the skills and capabilities of individuals but also actions directed towards changing social, environmental, political and economic conditions to alleviate their impact on populations and individual health (Australian Health Promotion Association 2012).
“It is my aspiration that health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for.” United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan
Health is a fundamental right of every human being. The right to health is closely related to and dependent upon the realization of other human rights, including the right to food, housing, work, education, participation. The right to health means that governments must generate conditions in which everyone can be as healthy as possible. Such conditions range from ensuring availability of health services, healthy and safe working conditions, adequate housing and nutritious food.
Health Promotion seeks to reduce health inequalities among population groups ensuring equal opportunities and resources to enable all people to achieve their fullest health potential. Political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, behavioural and biological factors can all favour health or be harmful to it. Health promotion action aims to make these conditions favourable through the action areas articulated in the Ottawa Charter;
- building healthy public policy
- creating supportive environments
- strengthening community action
- developing personal skills
- reorienting health services.
The Social Determinants of Health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities - the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. (WHO 2012)
Information cited from, for more detail...
Social determinants of health. The solid facts, Edited by Richard Wilkinson & Michael Marmot Second edition 2003 provides a comprehensive summary of the Social Determinants of Health.
The document examines 10 social determinants of health, providing established research on their known links to poor health and implications for public policy.
1) Social Gradient
The Social gradient in health explains how psychological and social influences affect health and longevity. Universally, those who are less affluent experience substantially shorter life expectancy and increased illness than those who are financially secure.
Stressful circumstances, making people feel worried, anxious and unable to cope are damaging to health and may lead to premature death.
3) Early Life
A good start in life means supporting mothers and young children. Foundations of adult health are laid in early childhood and before birth. Slow growth and poor emotional support raise the lifetime of risk of poor physical health and reduce cognitive and emotional functioning in adulthood.
4) Social Exclusion
Being excluded from the life of society and being treated as less than equal leads to worse health and greater risks of premature death. Social exclusion can result from racism, discrimination, stigmatisation, hostility and unemployment.
The social organisation of work, management styles and social relationships in the workplace all matter for health. People who have more control over their work have better health, and in turn stress in the workplace increases the risk of disease.
Job security increases health, well-being and job satisfaction. Higher rates of unemployment cause more illness and premature death; the effects of unemployment are linked to both psychological consequences and the financial problems it brings
7) Social Support
Friendships, good social relations and strong supportive networks improve health at home, at work and in the community. Social support helps give people the emotional and practical resources they need.
Alcohol dependence, illicit drug use and cigarette smoking are all closely associated with social and economic disadvantage. People turn to alcohol, drugs and cigarettes to numb the pain of harsh economic and social conditions.
A good diet and adequate food supply are central for promoting health and well-being. Excess intake of nutrient poor foods contributes to chronic diseases, and conversely a shortage of food or lack of variety can cause malnutrition and various deficiency diseases.
Cycling, walking and the use of public transport promote health in four ways by providing exercise, reduce fatal road accidents, increase social contact and reduce air pollution.
Policy and action for health need to address the social determinants of health, attacking the causes of ill health before they can lead to problems. This is a challenging task for both decision-makers and public health actors and advocates.
Through extensive consultation the Victorian Government developed the Health Promotion priorities for 2007-2012, with the overarching aim to improve overall health and reduce health inequalities. The priority areas provide a clear, coordinated agenda for the future of the entire Victorian health system. The 7 priority issues are
- Promoting physical activity and active communities
- Promoting accessible and nutritious food
- Promoting mental health and wellbeing
- Reducing tobacco-related harm
- Reducing and minimising harm from alcohol and other drugs
- Safe environments to prevent unintentional injury
- Sexual and reproductive health
- Neighbourhood Renewal sites were also confirmed as one of the priority settings for health promotion practice from 2007.