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The aims of health promotion and public health practice

Health promotion and public health both require health professionals to think about wider issues than just the patient or client in front of them, but have you ever stopped and thought about what you are aiming to do as a health promoter?

For example, are you aiming to improve people’s health by encouraging them to change their lifestyle, behaviour and choices, or are you aiming to influence the socio-economic determinants of health that directly impact on and influence the lifestyles that people lead and the choices they make?

Do you wish for patients and clients to be compliant with health promoting information, or do you work in a way that enables individual choice even though this may be at odds with your own knowledge and what you assume is in a person’s ‘best interests’?

Our health promotion aims reflect a philosophical position and the values that underpin our health promoting practice, therefore it is important that we think about what we are doing, why and how we go about promoting health.

Your task

Reflect on your learning and sphere of practice as a nurse and a promoter of health.

Does your health promoting practice mainly aim to change health-related behaviours and lifestyles or does it mainly aim to change the social determinants of health?

Which statement most closely reflects what you do in practice?

  1. As a nurse my health-promoting practice aims for patients/clients to adopt healthy behaviours.
  2. As a nurse my health-promoting practice aims to address the social determinants of patients/clients.

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the above aims. What would you like to do if you were able to prioritise your work differently?

This task is adapted from Scriven (2017) .


Scriven, A. (2017) Ewles & Simnett’s Promoting Health. A Practical Guide. 7th edn. Edinburgh: Elsevier

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This article is from the free online course:

Could You Be the Next Florence Nightingale?

Coventry University