Indexed on: 17 Aug '06Published on: 17 Aug '06Published in: Social Science & Medicine
The paper describes a model of moral reasoning used to guide the conduct of health researchers and recommends that this model be applied in health promotion. It argues that this model is a more appropriate and sound way of thinking about the means and ends of health education, with implications for both research and practice. When faced with ethical dilemmas about the most appropriate course of action in health research, investigators and bioethicists conduct normative analyses to identify good reasons for choosing one option over another. These reasons provide the grounds for determining what one should do, and for changing past practices in light of new moral considerations. Since the research community seems to think that this is a good way to guide and change their own behavior, this model of moral reasoning appears to have relevance and potential application to the field of health education, which engages in analogous processes of seeking to inform and change the behaviors of the lay public. The article sets this approach in the context of a humanistic understanding of human motivation and presents two case examples to illustrate the process of moral reasoning. The humanistic model outlined here helps to explain why health promotion has not made much progress in developing effective behavior change programs and it offers a more promising prospect for demonstrating success by identifying a broader range of relevant outcomes. The paper concludes by recommending that greater attention be paid to the ethical dimensions of human agency in order to develop a more coherent body of knowledge to advance both research and practice in health promotion.