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Can J Public Health. 1992 Mar-Apr;83 Suppl 1:S31-46.

Learning to 'walk our talk': the implications of sociological theory for research methodologies in health promotion.

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McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.


In recent formulations of the concept of health promotion, such as Achieving Health for All and the Ottawa Charter, emphasis is clearly placed on comprehensivity and the integration of individual and social determinants of health, broadly defined. This paper is premised on the observation that despite evidence of a paradigm shift in the way we talk about health promotion at a conceptual level, we have yet to properly articulate a 'new' research methodology to accompany the 'new' health promotion. The paper has three main sections. First, some of the limitations and contradictions that separate the rhetoric of health promotion from its current operationalization in research practice are discussed. In asserting the inherent links between theory, methodology and method, the need for a new research paradigm is demonstrated. In the second section, seven key issues derived from the literature on sociological theory are identified and discussed in terms of their implications for choosing a new research methodology for health promotion. In the third section it is suggested that using these issue areas as a 'decision map' leads to the selection of a preferred strategy which brings together both interpretive and critical perspectives to bear on our understanding of social reality as it affects health. Elements of both of these approaches and the nature of their potential complimentarity are considered. Throughout these deliberations the reader is encouraged to consider the potentially conservative or activist orientations that alternate methodologies imply, and to critically evaluate how these mesh with the emerging rhetoric of fostering empowerment that is the cornerstone of the 'new' health promotion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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