Resources revisited: salutogenesis from a lay perspective


SarahCowley Professor in Nursing Practice Development and Evaluation, Division of Nursing and Midwifery, King's College London, Cornwall House, Waterloo Road, London SEI 8WA, UK.


Resources revisited: salutogenesis from a lay perspective¶Health visitors are being pressured to move away from their traditional role in health promotion and public health to focus more closely on people with established clinical disorders. This is partly because of a paucity of theoretical explanations against which to assess interventions directed explicitly at promoting health rather than only preventing disease. However, there are growing public health concerns about increasing inequalities and rising numbers of disadvantaged groups in the UK as well. This paper revisits a grounded theory study that revealed how, in the absence of a need for clinical intervention, health visitors appear to assess needs by treating health as a process fuelled by the accumulation and use of `resources for health'. Wider theories about salutogenesis (`health creation') and research showing the importance of health and social capital demonstrate the potential of this idea, and were combined with the health visiting study to create a theoretical framework for analytical purposes. Semi-structured interviews with the main carer in 50 families with resident children were analysed using this framework, to provide a lay perspective on how people consider they maintain their health. The analysis demonstrated the usefulness of treating health as a process and of focusing on the development of health-related resources rather than only on presenting problems. The processes of developing capacity were shown to be more important than the presence or absence of specific resources. Links with personal empowerment were apparent; cultural patterns that evolved across generations and neighbourhoods revealed possible pathways to social cohesion. Practice approaches that enhance or inhibit the development of these health-creating resources were identified, and considered in the light of emerging public health needs.