Workplace Health Promotion: A Salutogenic Approach, by Anders Hanson

Book Review by Peter Delobelle

During the “Meet the authors” sessions at the 20th IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion in Geneva, July 11-15, Anders Hanson presented his book, Workplace Health Promotion: A Salutogenic Approach, to a small audience of interested practitioners. The book attempts to provide an overview of the ideas, disciplines and experiences to be found in the field of workplace health promotion using Antonovsky’s concept of salutogenesis as a starting point, and was first published in Sweden in 2004. It has gained a prominent place in the scientific literature of educational courses in public health and health promotion and was translated in English in order to meet the current international interest in the salutogenic perspective related to workplace health promotion, illustrated by the large audiences attending the sessions on salutogenesis at the Conference.

In the book, the author sets out to explain the concept of health and well-being in the workplace from a theoretical and historical point of view, highlighting the significance of theories and drawing largely on documents from WHO and the European Network for Workplace Health Promotion (ENWHP). The concept of salutogenesis is described as a theoretical guide for health promotion, based on the three components of what Antonovsky called Sense of Coherence (SOC): comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness, and explored in regard to its application for workplace health promotion. The various disciplines involved in workplace health promotion are described, and an in-depth analysis of the criteria to inform health promoting work is provided, focusing on measures for promoting health, the workplace as a setting, conditions governing participation, and the need for a process orientated approach.

The starting point taken by the author to guide the salutogenic work of health promotion is based on the following questions: ‘What is health?’; ‘What is required to help ensure that health develops and is preserved?’; and ‘How do we bring about a trend towards improved health conditions?’. Together, these questions lead to a discussion both on normative position, the need for theoretical knowledge and a choice of practical approach. The latter may be facilitated by outside experts as well as those involved in the workplace as a setting, and fits in with elements from the development tradition. The process itself can be conveniently structured along four levels, ranging from a technical process with human-related content, to a stepwise social adaptation aimed at improved possibilities for health. As such, the approach is clearly time-consuming and involves multiple actors and stakeholders, who support the process through a participatory approach, which is often associated with elements of empowerment and co-responsibility.

During the session, Anders explained that he mainly wrote the book in order to fill the gap in current literature related to workplace health promotion, an effort in which he, according to some reviewers (Schmitt, 2009; Petersson, 2004) largely succeeded, by producing a textbook with attractive writing style and presentation which make it suited to different kinds of interested readers. Although the book is theoretical in nature, numerous references are made to applications for workplace health promotion, providing realistic solutions and approaches to improve health and reduce absenteeism from work. The book hence contributes to the growing field of health promotion and comes at a right time, given the strains and demands of modern society and working life, thereby taking the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion one step further.

About the author, Anders Hanson 

Anders has a Master’s degree in occupational and organisational psychology and has many years of educational experience in health promotion, a.o. at the University West in Trollättan in Sweden. Since 2000, he has been an independent educator and fulltime consultant within the field of organisation, leadership and health. He is currently working on strategic health promotion in several Swedish companies.

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Review published: August 2010


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