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Health promotion

So much more than just telling people how to be healthy.

It’s about encouraging people, communities, organisations and governments to take actions.

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What is health promotion?


Good health is a basic human right, something we all want. Health promotion is all about helping us get it. 

Good health is key to a long and happy life, after all. But it requires so much more than just telling people how to be healthy!

The main goal of health promotion is to improve the quality of our physical, mental and social wellbeing.  

Health promotion approaches aren't the same for everyone

Health promotion recognises that health outcomes are not equitable and that they are significantly informed by the social determinants of health and the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, play and age. 


Watch our bite-sized video for a quick intro to health promotion.

Understanding Health Promotion: A Short Introduction

Health promotion: a definition 


The most well-known definition of health promotion comes from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Ottawa Charter (1986).

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

Ottawa Charter (1986)
World Health Organisation

You can read the full definition here. But put simply, health promotion is a set of actions to build good health and wellbeing. 

  • Give me more details

    Research and case studies teach us that health promotion strategies can help people build healthier lifestyles and have a real impact on the factors that determine health.

    For example, by developing healthy environments, we can encourage people to be more active - even a 5% cut in physical inactivity across Victoria can save 1000 lives. 

    But as the world around us changes, so must the way we engage with people in this space. Which is why over the past 50 years, health promotion has evolved from the biomedical model of health (pre-1970s) to the social model of health (1970s onwards), and to the ecological model of health (late 1990s onwards).

    At VicHealth, our approach to health promotion follows the Ottawa Charter, as well as other international frameworks, such as the Jakarta Declaration (WHO 1997) and the Rio Declaration (WHO 2012). 


What affects our health?


While exercise and healthy eating is important, those are just two aspects of health and wellbeing

Health promotion is also about understanding the complex social and economic factors that can affect a person’s health.

A photo of people making art at a workshop

These include:

  • Behaviours and beliefs
  • Family environments
  • Community and work cultures
  • Legislation
  • Living situation
  • Cultural background
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Work status
  • Level of education
  • Strength of social support

So, good health is about you - but it's about more than just you. 


At VicHealth, we want to reshape the systems that affect our health. These are:


Our approach


By understanding the factors that can impact a person's wellbeing, health promotion can meaningfully tackle issues impacting people from living their best lives.


We’re proud
to do this by: 

  • Supporting strong social networks 

  • Advocating for respectful relationships 

  • Creating healthy, safe and supportive environments 

  • Strengthening community action 

  • Developing personal skills 

  • Encouraging attitude change 

  • Building healthy public policy 

  • Working to reduce health inequalities 

A photo of people working in a community garden

It’s these actions that can make a real and lasting difference.


At VicHealth, we're looking to the future to identify emerging health challenges, so we can innovate and invest in solutions.

It's our mission to create the places, spaces, neighbourhoods and communities that lead to good health, helping people discover ways to enjoy a happy, healthy life. 

More about how we're working towards a healthier Victoria

Illustration of a city with lots of green space and people on footpaths and bikes

VicHealth Strategy 2023-2033

Landing page
7 min read
18 Jul 2023


Health promotion in action


Health promotion works in many different ways. It involves:  

  • Educating people on how to stay healthy 

  • Addressing community factors that influence health and wellbeing  

  • Eliminating barriers and shifting the environments and social systems that are holding these barriers in place – ultimately impacting, and influencing people's health and wellbeing 

  • Promoting activities that support good health and prevent ill-health (rather than only focusing on people at risk of specific diseases).

  • Encouraging people, communities, organisations and governments to take action to improve health and wellbeing.
A photo of people at a health promotion conference


Why is health promotion so important?


Chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, as well as anxiety and depression, all present significant challenges to our health system – and unfortunately – put our families and communities through a lot of anguish.  

The good news is, health promotion can help address underlying conditions that lead to chronic disease and make positive changes to the world around us. 


Making good health central to our daily lives 


By now, you’ll see health promotion is a rich area of ideas, actions and research. But if we break it down, it’s really about improving the quality of people’s lives – and making sure that looking after our health isn’t just a priority, but that it’s accessible and easy to action.  

Let's dig deeper. Health promotion has the potential to transform economic and political systems, creating a holistic approach to community wellbeing. 

Head to our page to learn more about the concept of a wellbeing economy and how it can benefit both people and planet.

How to create a wellbeing economy


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.