Empowerment: a goal or a means for health promotion?

Med Health Care Philos. 2007 Jun;10(2):197-207. doi: 10.1007/s11019-006-9027-1. Epub 2006 Nov 7.


Empowerment is a concept that has been much used and discussed for a number of years. However, it is not always explicitly clarified what its central meaning is. The present paper intends to clarify what empowerment means, and relate it to the goals of health promotion. The paper starts with the claim that health-related quality of life is the ultimate general goal for health promotion, and continues by briefly presenting definitions of some central concepts: "welfare", "health" and "quality of life". Several suggestions as to what empowerment is are then discussed: autonomy, freedom, knowledge, self-esteem, self-confidence, and control over health or life. One conclusion of this discussion is that empowerment can be seen as a complex goal which includes aspects of the three central concepts welfare, health and quality of life. To the extent that the empowerment goals aimed at are health-related, it is concluded that empowerment is a legitimate goal for health promotion. But empowerment is not only a goal, it can also be described as a process or as an approach. This process, or approach, in a fundamental way involves the participants in problem formulation, decision making and action, which means that the experts have to relinquish some of their control and power.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Self Concept