Empowerment, a multi-level construct comprising individual, community and organizational domains, is a fundamental value and goal in health promotion. While a range of scales have been developed for the measurement of empowerment, the qualities of these have not been rigorously assessed. The aim of this study was to evaluate the measurement properties of quantitative empowerment scales and their applicability in health promotion programs. A systematic review following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines was done to evaluate empowerment scales across three dimensions: item development, reliability and validity. This was followed by assessment of measurement properties using a ratings scale with criteria addressing an a priori explicit theoretical framework, assessment of content validity, internal consistency and factor analysis to test structural validity. Of the 20 studies included in this review, only 8 (40%) used literature reviews, expert panels and empirical studies to develop scale items and 9 (45%) of studies fulfilled ≥5 criteria on the ratings scale. Two studies (10%) measured community empowerment and one study measured organizational empowerment, the rest (85%) measured individual empowerment. This review highlights important gaps in the measurement of community and organizational domains of empowerment using quantitative scales. A priority for future empowerment research is to investigate and explore approaches such as mixed methods to enable adequate measurement of empowerment across all three domains. This would help health promotion practitioners to effectively measure empowerment as a driver of change and an outcome in health promotion programs.
Keywords: empowerment; health promotion; measurement; psychometric properties.
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