“We don’t tell people what to do”: Ethical practice and Indigenous health promotion

McPhail-Bell, Karen, Bond, Chelsea, Brough, Mark, & Fredericks, Bronwyn L. (2015) “We don’t tell people what to do”: Ethical practice and Indigenous health promotion. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 26(3), pp. 195-199.

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Abstract

Health promotion aspires to work in empowering, participatory ways, with the goal of supporting people to increase control over their health. However, buried in this goal is an ethical tension: while increasing people’s autonomy, health promotion also imposes a particular, health promotion-sanctioned version of what is good. This tension positions practitioners precariously, where the ethos of empowerment risks increasing health promotion’s paternalistic control over people, rather than people’s control over their own health. Here in we argue that this ethical tension is amplified in Indigenous Australia, where colonial processes of control over Indigenous lands, lives and cultures are indistinguishable from contemporary health promotion ‘interventions’. Moreover, the potential stigmatisation produced in any paternalistic acts ‘done for their own good’ cannot be assumed to have evaporated within the self-proclaimed ‘empowering’ narratives of health promotion. This issue’s guest editor’s call for health promotion to engage ‘with politics and with philosophical ideas about the state and the citizen’ is particularly relevant in an Indigenous Australian context. Indigenous Australians continue to experience health promotion as a moral project of control through intervention, which contradicts health promotion’s central goal of empowerment. Therefore, Indigenous health promotion is an invaluable site for discussion and analysis of health promotion’s broader ethical tensions. Given the persistent and alarming Indigenous health inequalities, this paper calls for systematic ethical reflection in order to redress health promotion’s general failure to reduce health inequalities experienced by Indigenous Australians.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 91614
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: Bronwyn Fredericks is an Adjunct Professor with the Faculty of Health, QUT and a Member of the ISRN, QUT. She is a Professor and the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement)and BMA Chair in Indigenous Engagement at Central Queensland University, Australia.
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Indigenous, health promotion, ethical practice, empowering, participatory, intervention, decolonisation, urban, research, Institute of Urban Indigenous Health
DOI: 10.1071/HE15048
ISSN: 1036-1073
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (111701)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Health Promotion (111712)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Division of Research and Commercialisation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Research Centres > Indigenous Studies Research Network
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Australian Health Promotion Association
Deposited On: 06 Jan 2016 01:35
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2016 22:08

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