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Health promotion


Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve their health.

Health promotion is a set of actions to foster good health and wellbeing. It is not ‘promotion’ as in the sense of the word usually understood. Telling people how to look after their health is just one part of health promotion.


Health promotion involves action:

  • to inform people of what they could do to stay healthy  
  • to address the things in the community that influence health and wellbeing the most, so that these can be supported.

Health promotion activities are geared toward promoting health and preventing ill-health rather than focusing on people at risk for specific diseases.


Health promotion:

  • Enables people to increase control over and improve their health
  • Involves the population as a whole in the context of their everyday lives
  • Activities are geared toward promoting health and preventing ill-health rather than focusing on people at risk for specific diseases.


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Understanding health promotion: a short introduction

Health promotion is a rich area of ideas, approaches and research. Want the bite-size serve to begin understanding it?


What is the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion?

The Ottawa Charter is a clear statement of action for health promotion, widely used by the health promotion sector. The Ottawa Charter came out of the first International Conference on Health Promotion held in Ottawa, Canada, in November 1986. The conference aimed for action to achieve ‘Health for all’ by the year 2000 and beyond. The Charter gave health promotion a solid framework, and health promoters an identity.

Does health promotion work?

Research and case studies from around the world provide convincing evidence that health promotion is effective. Health promotion strategies can develop and change lifestyles, and have an impact on the social, economic and environmental conditions that determine health.

What are the strategies for success?

The five strategies set out in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion are essential for success:

  • build healthy public policy
  • create supportive environments
  • strengthen community action
  • develop personal skills
  • reorient health services.


What is VicHealth’s approach?

VicHealth’s approach is informed by international health promotion frameworks, in particular those led by the World Health Organization and encapsulated in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (WHO 1986), the Jakarta Declaration (WHO 1997) and the Rio Declaration (WHO 2012).

Our approach is based on the knowledge that health is influenced by myriad complex and inter-related factors. 

These include:

  • individual behaviours and beliefs
  • family environments
  • community and work cultures
  • practices and policies
  • broader socioeconomic factors such as culture, legislation, the media and economics.


Health promotion developments

The last few years have been important for health promotion with attention focused on the prevention agenda by both the State and Commonwealth governments. This is in response to significant changes causing an increase in chronic disease.

These include both demographic changes (growth and ageing of the population) and changes to lifestyles. The increase in chronic disease is having, and will continue to have, an impact on our health care system and prevention is seen by all levels of government as key.

The key policies related to health promotion all acknowledge that:

  • other policies of government also impact on health – for example, planning, transport, environmental sustainability
  • partnerships will be needed across all levels of government, non-government organisations, the health sector, business and the community itself if change is to be successful.


Key events and outcomes: Victorian government

Victoria's 10-year mental health plan (December 2015)

This plan sets a long-term vision for improving mental health and wellbeing. It will guide investment and aims to provide better mental health outcomes for Victorians.


Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2015-2019 (September 2015)

The Victorian public health and wellbeing plan 2015-2019 outlines the government’s key priorities over the next four years to improve the health and wellbeing of all Victorians, particularly the most disadvantaged.


Victorian Health and Wellbeing Outcomes Framework 2012-2022 (August 2014)

The purpose of the State Government’s framework is to lay out a clear, coordinated agenda for the future of the entire Victorian health system. It covers the spectrum from primary, secondary and tertiary health services to health promotion. The framework is the basis for three supporting plans:


Koolin Balit: Victorian Government Strategic Directions for Aboriginal Health 2012-2022 (July 2013)

This framework provides an overview of the Victorian Government's plan to address Aboriginal health into the future.


Victorian Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (June 2009)

In June 2009, the Victorian Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) provided a response to the Victorian Auditor General’s 2007 review of Victorian health promotion activities. PAEC identified the following areas for improvement: health promotion funding, capacity-building, data, research, performance indicators, evaluation and social marketing.

Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022

VicHealth acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land. We pay our respects to all Elders past, present and future.

This website may contain images, names and voices of deceased people.

VicHealth acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.


Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.