Background. In 1986, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion sought to create a framework that conveyed the notion of capacity building, related to specific settings, and a structured process for health promotion action. It provided the platform from which the health promoting hospital movement was later launched. Nearly two decades on, the health promoting hospital (HPH) movement has grown considerably and continues to expand, against the backdrop of having to adapt to the changing needs and demands of clients and the evolving social context of their communities. Many nurses, it is argued here, are often unaware of health promoting hospitals concepts or, when they are, do little to contribute to them.
Method. A critical review of the available health promoting hospital and related literature has been conducted for discussion.
Findings. The literature revealed that hospitals are being urged to reject practices based purely on health-limiting and limited biomedical frameworks, in favour of moving towards models based on health promoting hospitals and public health-orientated hospitals. This requires radical reform that focuses on the social and health policy context of organizations, the socio-political empowerment of its employers and clients, and the personal/collective positive health and welfare of its employers and clients. Many health service agencies are beginning to emphasize population health within communities as part of a concerted move away from an original primary focus on acute inpatient hospital-based service provision.
Conclusion. Hospitals need to adapt and expand their efforts to focus on health promotion activities, in collaboration with the ever-widening community networks of health and social agencies. This requires the commitment of all health care professional groups. Nurses who practice in the hospital setting should be aiming to initiate and promote radical health promotion reform as set out in the health promoting hospital movement.
This paper argues that nursing per se could be making much larger inroads and efforts to affect and implement wide-ranging health promotion activities in hospital organizations. Nurses should view the HPH movement as another opportunity truly to embrace evolving broad-based health promotion concepts, as a means to forge and own their own health agenda, and also as a means to move beyond the traditional reliance of a limited health education role.
Relevance to clinical practice. Hospitals and their employees must be seen to advocate, support and implement wide-reaching social and community-based reform, as part of a necessary commitment to ‘seamless’ health care provision. The health promoting hospital movement represents a collective vehicle for enabling such activities. If nurses wish to be at the forefront of current health service strategies they must be seen to embrace the radical health promotion reforms that are emerging from the current literature and put forward in this article.