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First Swedish study on health promotion


In recent years a new view of health has emerged. The change has been so momentous that it has been called a paradigm shift. But what kind of social transformation are we experiencing? What is actually meant by ‘health promotion’? This is what Peter Korp at the University of Trollhättan/Uddevalla has investigated in his doctoral dissertation in sociology. The study is the first to be carried out on the basis of conditions in Sweden.

The view of how health is dealt with in society has changed. For one thing, preventive measures and alternative methods of treatment are being discussed more and more. As a result, the number of educational programs in health promotion or health-fostering work, as it is also termed, has increased dramatically. At HTU, for example, there is a three-year program of study to train students for work with promoting health.

Vague concept

Peter Korp’s thesis studies the institutionalization of health promotion. The key issue has been to determine what health promotion actually is. His research shows that the concept of health promotion emerged both out of reforms in health policy from above and as an oppositional force from below. The concept as such, on the other hand, remains vague and imprecise. Nor is there a definition of what competence or what knowledge is unique to the field or what strategic and conceptual frames of reference should be used.

Broad perspective and holistic approach

“Even though work in public health has existed for a long time in our country, health promotion is not a self-evident concept with us,” says Peter Korp. “Sweden wishes to be seen as a country with a high level of social welfare,” he continues. “However, I see a risk in the fact that, apace with the growing commercial profitability of health care, the individual is expected more and more to take the responsibility for his/her own health. As I see it, this approach will not be able to tackle ill health in society. On the contrary, what is needed is a broad perspective and a holistic approach.”

Health professionals reinforce the picture

The dissertation also contains a study of what daily work is like for academically trained health workers. The results of that study reinforce the picture of health promotion as an area of competence that still has not become a self-evident and influential force in society. Professionals working in the field also encounter an unfocused and unclear picture of their profession.

Bodil Järnerot | Swedish Research Council
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