Essay On Ottawa Charter

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Relevance of the key values and principles of the Ottawa Charter to Health Promotion today.

The first international conference on health promotion, held in Ottawa, Canada was organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) in conjunction with Health and Welfare Canada. (Potvin, Jones 1) Held in the year 1986, this conference was, “primarily a response to growing expectations for a new public health movement around the world.” ("Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion"3) .The dialogues were mainly focussed on needs within industrialised countries, though similar concerns in all other demographic areas were taken into consideration. The conference aimed at achieving the World Health Organization’s Health for all by the year 2000 initiative, launched in 1981, through identifying action on a continuous basis. ("Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion"3)

The Ottawa Charter is based on five key principles which include building healthy public policy, creating supportive environments, strengthening community actions, developing personal skills and reorienting health services. ("Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion"2) Health promotion by definition is, “the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health.” ("Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion"1). One cannot realise a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, unless their physical and emotional needs are satisfied and the individual is able to either change their milieu or learn how to cope within their setting. These five principles are still very relevant to health promotion today albeit the fact that the charter is approaching its thirtieth year.

Building healthy public policy is of the essence because a society cannot function at its highest state of wellbeing if improper policies are put into place. Health promotion makes policymakers aware of the consequences their decisions could have on the health of their demographic.Moreover,health promotion policies necessitates the recognition of factors that might hinder the adoption of these policies and looks for ways to remove these hindrances. The Affordable Care Act of 2010, for example, is a public policy that was created in order to put consumers back in charge of their health. One of the features of this act is to end pre-existing condition exclusions for children which is very beneficial for children under the age of 19 years who can no longer be denied or limited benefits due to pre-existing conditions.( ("About the Law" 1).

In addition to this, health promotion creates supportive environments. This is very pertinent in today’s society because the living and working conditions have to be in such a way that the individuals in that environment feel not only safe but also enjoy the environment in which they live in which in turn leads to proper wellbeing. In the same breath, our natural resources should be treated with utmost care and anything that might threaten the existence of these resources should be addressed in any health promotion strategy. In Kenya, for example, the government deployed 550 rangers at Tsavo Park with the aim of fighting against poachers, whose level of destruction is slowly putting elephants in extinction. (Sieff 2). Human beings cannot exist without the environment and vice versa. “The inextricable links between people and their environment constitutes the basis for a socioecological approach to health.” ("Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion."2).

Thirdly, health promotion strengthens community actions. “Community development draws on existing human and material resources in the community to enhance self-help and social support, and to develop flexible systems for strengthening public participation in and direction of health matters. This requires full and continuous access to information, learning opportunities for health, as well as funding support.” ("Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion"2). For example, the housing and community development act of 1974,which was aimed at curbing the various social, economic and environmental problems faced by the urban community in the USA, has been very beneficial to low income families through the section 8 housing program which in turn has promoted stability in family hence emotional wellbeing.

Another core principal value of the Ottawa Charter is the development of personal skills. “Health promotion supports personal and social development through providing information, education for health, and enhancing life skills.” ("Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion"2). This is evident for example in Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres for HIV where individuals are not only tested for the virus but are also educated on the disease, prevention of it and how to live with it. By doing so, individuals are empowered to making more informed decisions, thereby having more control over their own health and those that are directly or indirectly affected by the choices they make regarding their health.

Lastly, health promotion reorients services. “The role of the health sector must move increasingly in a health promotion direction, beyond its responsibility for providing clinical and curative services.” ("Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion"2). This means that people from all walks of life should be able to walk into a health facility and get the help they require without feeling prejudiced or judged. For example, a university clinic founded on Christian ideologies and principles should be able to treat a teenager who has had unprotected sex without basing their willingness to treat the individual on how Christian/Unchristian they are.

The Ottawa’s framework for health promotion makes us aware that our health cannot be put as a separate entity from our day to day life because health really affects every part of our life whether we are aware of it or not. “It involves enabling people to increase control over their health, a process in which individuals, communities, health professionals and institutions, and governments all have a role.”(Sullivan, 138) It is therefore evident that these five principles continue to be applicable so many years down the line and will continue to be a reference point for the public health sector for years to come.


Potvin, Louis, and Catherine M. Jones. "Twenty-five Years After the Ottawa Charter: The Critical Role of Health Promotion for Public Health." CANADIAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH 102 (2011): Web.
Sieff, Kevin. "As the World Mourned Cecil the Lion, Five of Kenya’s Endangered Elephants Were slain." The Washington Post 29 July 2015: Web
Sullivan, Sue C. "7." This Is Public Health: A Canadian History. By Christopher Rutty. 2010. Print
"Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion." Better Health Channel.13 Sept. 2015. Web.