Health promotion community development and the tyranny of individualism Academic Article uri icon


  • Economic evaluation of health promotion poses few major difficulties when the theoretical approach of the programme and the evaluation of cost and benefits are confined within the context of the individual. Methodological individualism has a long history in economics and the techniques of microeconomics are well suited to the examination of individually focused behaviour change programmes. However, new developments in community health promotion pose special challenges. These programmes have the community, not the individual, as the focus of programme theory and "community' means something completely different from the sum of individuals. Community empowerment and promotion of the community's capacity to deal with health issues are the goals of such programmes. To reflect these notions, sense of community and community competence should be considered as "functionings', an extra-welfarist constituent of well-being. Their inclusion as outcomes of community health promotion requires a shift from individualist utilitarian economics into a communitarian framework which respects the programme's notion of community. If health economics fails to develop new constructs to deal with these new approaches in health promotion, the application of existing techniques to community programmes will mislead health decision makers about their value and potential.

publication date

  • May 1996