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A Systems View of Health Promotion

Author: JOHN UREDA and STEVEN YATES
Published in JHHSA, Vol. 28 No. 1

This article presents a systems view of health promotion and
education. We offer an overview of systems theory, including the
hierarchy of systems, the relationship between a system and its
environment, and agent-host interactions. A host is any system that
may face disruption from an environmental agent or perturbation from
an adjacent system. A system is healthy to the extent it can prevent,
parry, or dissipate the effects of disruptions and perturbations. Systems
can collaborate and cooperate to enhance their capacity to respond
adaptively to potential threats from agents. This offers new insights into
the three levels of prevention, and into health promotion practice.
Health promotion is any effort to influence host systems in ways that
will enhance their capacity to prevent, resist, dissipate or respond
adaptively to potential threats from their environment. We also offer an
account of the balance between stability (or lack of) in the environment
and the importance of flexibility enabling systems to adapt to change.
We examine high-level wellness, a function of knowledge, learning,
skills and stored-up resources that enhance adaptability, flexibility and
timeliness in a system's response to anticipated and unanticipated
potentially disruptive environmental agents. Finally we draw
implications for health promotion and education practice. The health
promoter / educator is a helpful agent seeking to influence systems at
various levels in the hierarchy of systems in ways that will enhance
their capacity to prevent, resist, dissipate or respond adaptively to
potential disruptive agents in their environments.

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