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Health promotion, health education, and the public’s health 

Health promotion, health education, and the public’s health
Health promotion, health education, and the public’s health

Simon Carroll

and Marcia Hills

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date: 23 May 2022

Health promotion is a complex, ambiguous concept and set of practices. While many have linked it, primarily, to a revolution in health education, its roots go much deeper into the history of public health. It had its contemporary beginnings in the throes of the backlash against bureaucratic and professional dominance exemplified by the new social movements of the 1970s and 1980s. At its heart, health promotion is centred on the values and principles of equity, participation, and empowerment. These concepts are embedded in health promotion’s founding document, the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. However, exactly how these values are articulated is often ambiguous. In this chapter, the authors contend that health promoters must intensify their reflection on these core values and principles; particularly in the light of the tendency to slip back into a comfortable paternalism, which reinforces existing power imbalances. We are specifically concerned with the precise interpretation of health equity in health promotion. In order to pursue a deeper level of reflection on the meaning of equity, it is argued that health promotion must engage more deeply with recent developments in political philosophy, political economy and social theory. Following up from the work of the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, one of health promotion’s emerging priorities is a reinvigorated push for the global development of ‘healthy public policy’ as seen in the Health in All Policies (HiAP) movement. In this updated chapter, we also address the need for health promotion to engage more directly with core social theoretical concepts related to the generation of social inequalities that underlie health inequities; finally, we explore the relevance of complexity science and systems thinking for health promotion research.

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