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A Very Brief Introduction to Health Promotion
Maurice B. Mittelmark,

Health promotion is a vital part of the global social progress agenda. Specifically, the term 'health promotion' refers to planned actions which aim to empower people to control their own health by gaining control over its determinants (the underlying factors which influence health). The main determinants of health are people's cultural, social, economic and environmental conditions and the social and personal behaviours which are strongly influenced by those conditions.

Consequently, a key characteristic of health promotion is that it seeks to orchestrate a wide range of complementary actions at the individual, group, community and macro levels. Its core activities are health education, and advocacy for policies in all sectors of society which help to improve health and, conversely, to prevent it being threatened and undermined. The effectiveness of these activities is enhanced and underpinned by collaboration and alliance building among different sectors of society, applied research to improve the quality and effectiveness of health promotion, and training people to help them acquire skills to engage effectively in health promotion work.

Health, social services, environmental, educational and social development professionals, and academicians from various disciplines, engage in health promotion work together with citizens from many walks of life. They have at their disposal useful theories, methods and tools to aid in planning, implementing, evaluating and disseminating effective and ethical social development programmes. Such programmes aim to enable people to improve their overall well-being and the quality of their lives, not simply to lengthen them.

Health promoters vary in many ways, but virtually all share a few core values that define the 'soul' of health promotion: the primacy of equity and social justice, empowerment and participative methods.

Health promotion is thus a multi-faceted idea, having complex and interweaving philosophical, political, professional and practical dimensions. As a complex idea, health promotion holds different emphases for different people, depending on their backgrounds and circumstances. Accordingly, health promotion defies any attempt at simple definition. The links offered here help one to sample some of the diversity of ideas about health promotion, and appreciate its development and present state from a variety of perspectives.