Purpose: This article proposes a model of the ecological approach in health promotion programs. Based on system theory, the model identifies intervention settings and targets as two independent dimensions for assessing the integration of this approach in programs. Additional objectives are to present and pretest an analytical procedure that allows the assessment of integration of the ecological approach in programs.
Design: This was a descriptive study of the integration of the ecological approach in a sample of health promotion programs.
Subjects: Subjects were 44 health promotion programs drawn from the population of Canadian federally funded programs.
Measures: Descriptions of programs were obtained by telephone interviews. A coding scheme was applied to the data to identify intervention settings and targets for each program. Using this information, a summative score of the integration of the ecological approach was estimated for each program.
Results: Single-setting programs were the dominant pattern in the sample. Individuals whose health was of concern were very frequently the direct targets of the programs. However, organizational and interpersonal environments were also often directly targeted. Single-setting or single-intervention strategy programs outnumbered ecological programs.
Conclusion: The proposed model and analytical procedure is a useful framework for the assessment of integration of the ecological approach in health promotion programs. The pilot test having been conducted on a convenience sample, future work should replicate the study in a representative sample of programs.