Strategies & Skills Learning & Development
Proactive Health Strategies (PHS)
  A. Ka Tat Tsang, Ph.D. University of Toronto      February 1, 2008

Proactive Health Strategies (PHS) is a model developed according to SSLD principles to assist individuals, families, groups, and communities to achieve better health and well-being. It is a people-centered approach, which puts the individual or the group in the position of an agent instead of a patient - taking charge, making decisions, and acting on health and well-being.

Given the people-centered character of the PHS approach, health is not only defined in an objective manner, but includes the subjective experience and unique circumstances of individuals or groups. The WHO (1947) defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It is the extent to which an individual or group is able to realize aspirations and satisfy needs, on the other hand to change or cope with the environment." This definition is helpful in that it highlights the multiple dimensions of human life and experience, including the physical, psychological, and the social. To this list we can probably add the economic, the political, and the spiritual. Other dimensions may include the moral, the ethical, and the aesthetic. Wellness is a fluid concept, and may have different meanings for different individuals and groups. The second part of the definition recognized the agentive dimension of health, and conceives health in terms of strivings or attempts to realize goals and to satisfy needs. By referring to groups, it also takes health beyond a solely individualistic conceptualization.

The PHS approach focuses on the agentive human actions directed towards health and well-being. It conceives human action as motivated by needs or aspirations, and are therefore purposeful or goal-oriented. As such, the PHS approach focuses not only in the state of well-being to be attained, but also on the process. PHS involves active learning and development of strategies. Effective mastery and performance of these strategies will help people to obtain what they need or desire within their life-world.

The PHS approach, therefore, starts with the people, and aims at enhancing their capacity to satisfy their own needs and to realize their aspirations of goals. It focuses on assisting individuals and groups in identifying their own needs and aspirations, in accessing relevant information and knowledge, in handling their own emotional experience, and in developing strategies and actions that will allow them to achieve their desired goals in ways that are effective and appropriate within their respective environmental and social contexts.

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