This paper distinguishes between the uses of empowerment across different contexts in healthcare policy and health promotion, providing a model for the ethical and political scrutiny of those uses. We argue that the controversies currently engendered by empowerment are better understood by means of a historical distinction between two concepts of empowerment, namely, what we call the radical empowerment approach and the new wave of empowerment. Building on this distinction, we present a research agenda for ethicists and policy makers, highlighting three domains of controversy raised by the new wave of empowerment, namely: (1) the relationship between empowerment and paternalistic interferences on the part of professionals; (2) the evaluative commitment of empowerment strategies to the achievement of health-related goals; and (3) the problems arising from the emphasis on responsibility for health in recent uses of empowerment. Finally, we encourage the explicit theorisation of these moral controversies as a necessary step for the development and implementation of ethically legitimate empowerment processes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Community and Home Care
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health