Behavior Change Or Empowerment : On the Ethics of Health Promotion Goals

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Behavior Change Or Empowerment : On the Ethics of Health Promotion Goals

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Publication Article, peer reviewed scientific
Title Behavior Change Or Empowerment : On the Ethics of Health Promotion Goals
Author(s) Tengland, Per-Anders
Date 2013
English abstract
One important ethical issue for health promotion and public health work is to determine what the goals for these practices should be. This paper will try to clarify what some of these goals are thought to be, and what they ought to be. It will specifically discuss two different approaches to health promotion, such as, behavior change and empowerment. The general aim of this paper is, thus, to compare the behavior-change approach and the empowerment approach, concerning their immediate (instrumental) goals or aims, and to morally evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these two goal models, in relation to the ultimate goal of health promotion. The investigation shows that the behavior-change approach has several moral problems. First of all, it is overly paternalistic and often disregards the individual’s or group’s own perception of what is important—something that also increases the risk of failed interventions. Furthermore, it risks leading to ‘victim blaming’ and stigmatization, and to increased inequalities in health, and it puts focus on the ‘wrong’ problems, i.e., behavior instead of the ‘causes of the causes’. It is thereafter shown that the empowerment approach does not have any of these problems. Finally, some specific problems for the empowerment approach are discussed and resolved, such as, the idea that empowering some groups might lead to power over others, the objection that the focus is not primarily on health (which it should be), and the fact that empowered people might choose to live lives that risk reducing their health.
DOI (link to publisher's fulltext)
Publisher Springer
Host/Issue Health Care Analysis;
ISSN 1065-3058
Pages e-pub ahead of print
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Autonomy
Behavior change
Health promotion ethics
Public health ethics
Quality of life
Humanities/Social Sciences
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