Empowerment

published 29 Aug 2016 by Rita Nehme in Health Promotion category with 0 comments

Part of Steer North’s purpose is to ‘empower people to live healthier and active lives.’ What does that really mean and why is it important?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health empowerment this way: “In health promotion, empowerment is a process through which people gain greater control over decisions and actions affecting their health.”

So why is this important? Why can’t we just be told to be more active?

One aspect of empowerment is gaining the knowledge and skills required to increase control over our health. This is where Steer North hopes to participate and contribute. One very simple example of a person being empowered to be more active could be an imaginary person learning how to maintain their own bike. Especially if having this skill will increase the likelihood of them being more physically active because they aren’t worried they will have bike troubles while they are riding. Simple? Not quite. This leads us to another part of empowerment – our imaginary person now knows how to maintain their bike. But what if they are scared to ride in their neighbourhood because the path is too dark when they get home from work or uni, or there is no path at all – so they just don’t ride? Empowerment is our imaginary person being able to identify that there are things they can do – either individually or as part of their community – to change those circumstances, and taking action on those things. In our example this could be our imaginary person being aware that they can, and knowing how to, get in touch with the council to fix the lighting, or even the awareness of a local riding group they could join so they don’t have to ride alone, or even starting a group themselves. Steer North hopes to engage with the people and communities that we encounter to help them gain greater control over the decisions and actions affecting their health, this may be through bike maintenance workshops or highlighting existing services and groups or facilitating the creation of new ones and supporting these groups to empower others.

Does health promotion sound like something you are passionate about? Check out the undergraduate and postgraduate Public Health degrees offered by Steer North’s Academic partner Australian Catholic University (www.acu.edu.au/courses)