Promoting well-being: Time for a paradigm shift in health and human services

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


The promotion of personal, relational, and collective well-being has evolved markedly in the last three decades. However positive and needed, recent developments in health promotion require further conceptual clarification and synergistic applications. To assist with conceptual clarification, this article proposes to distinguish among sites, signs, sources, and strategies of well-being. With respect to applications, progress is discussed along four domains: temporal, ecological, participation, and capabilities. The temporal domain refers to the timing of interventions and entails a continuum from reactive to proactive strategies. The ecological domain pertains to the site of interventions, ranging from person-centered to community-centered. The participation domain refers to voice and choice of citizens and consumers in delivery of services and access to resources. At one end of this continuum there is empowerment, while at the opposite end we see disempowerment and detachment. Finally, the capabilities domain refers to the concentration on either strengths or deficits. This article argues that a singular focus on strength, prevention, empowerment, or community conditions is insufficient. It presents a framework for the conceptual integration of these four approaches, while illustrating the benefits of their synergy and the risks of their fragmentation. It is high time for a paradigm shift in health and human services, and this article argues that only a new approach that focuses on strengths, prevention, empowerment, and community conditions can make considerable progress towards the achievement of well-being for all.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-60
Number of pages8
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health, Supplement
Issue number66
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Community conditions
  • Empowerment
  • Health
  • Human services
  • Paradigm shift
  • Prevention
  • Strength-based approach
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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