Health promotion: the cutting edge of health and wellbeing
The interdisciplinary nature of health promotion places it at the cutting edge of health and wellbeing: offering creative and effective ways to promote wellbeing and protect groups, communities and populations from health challenges. It shares a common ground with several disciplines that focus on human and ecological wellbeing. One such discipline is social development.
We have reached a point where the challenges facing social and economic wellbeing are global; requiring action at all levels from local and national to regional and worldwide. We have seen the limitations of a narrow, discipline-focused approach. According to Sir Mason Durie: “…the failure of groups working in isolation to make substantial gains requires new approaches that are not handicapped by sectorial limitations or simplistic conclusions that one body of knowledge or one professional group has all the answers.”
Health promotion and social development share many common principles
Although based in different sectors, the fields of social development and health promotion share some common underlying principles. This common ground provides a strong framework for closer collaboration between the different disciplines; yielding benefits, effectiveness and efficiency for all concerned.
Some of these common principles are:
- The aim of advancing the holistic health and wellbeing of peoples and communities
- A core set of underlying causes or determinants that can make or break the health and social wellbeing of peoples and communities
- The understanding that health and development must be achieved with approaches that are sustainable for both humans and the rest of the ecology
- A belief in the inherent power and ability of peoples and communities to take control of these underlying causes, and, therefore, be the masters of their own futures[i]
- Similar strategies, such as community development, whānau and family capacity building, for addressing the needs of peoples and communities.
Whānau Ora: a strong example of health promotion’s interdisciplinary approach
The Whānau Ora approach is a strong example of an initiative that acknowledges the shared principles; operating across the health, social development, education and justice sectors. It is health promotion at the whānau level.
While the terminology of Whānau Ora is of Māori origin, the philosophy and practice can be found in many Pacific cultures. In many cases, the terms used are also linguistically related: Fanau Ola, for example, is a term used in Tongan and Samoan cultures to express the collective wellbeing of the extended family. Like its Māori equivalent, Fanau Ola in Pacific cultures refers to extended families and communities leading their own holistic development and being in control of their wellbeing and future. As more and more Māori and Pacific providers take up a Whānau Ora and Fanau Ola approach in working with communities, they realise that whānau and families are empowered not only because the approach resonates with their Indigenous worldviews, values and practices, but also whānau and families are taking control of their future and leading themselves, rather than relying on others and providers.
Our challenge now is to build on the interdisciplinary model of health promotion.
 Durie, M. (2011), Nga Tini Whetu Navigating Māori Futures, Huia Publishers, Wellington, p. 65
By Sione Tu’itahi
Edited by Jo Lawrence-King