ABC to promote public health in the municipality
According to the Norwegian Directorate for Health and the Ministry of Health and Care Services, increased effort should be made to promote mental health in the population. Mental health is defined as a state in which the ‘individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses in life, can work productively and fruitfully, and be able to make a contribution to his or her community’ (WHO, 2001). One vital aspect of mental health promotion is the ability of the individual to participate in meaningful activity, as individuals that keep physically, mentally, spiritually and socially active can develop their potential, experience belongingness, be empowered and thus strengthen mental health (Christiansen & Townsend, 2010). Loneliness and lack of meaning and purpose in life is related to psychological distress, and takes, or impairs more lives than any other lifestyle factor (Berkman & Syme, 1979; Forskning.no 3.5.2014). That the local community offers opportunity for participation in meaningful activity for different groups is therefore of importance in public health work and embedded in the Norwegian Public Health Act, as well as the Planning and Building Act. The Act-Belong-Commit (ABC) program (Donovan et al. 2006) guides community groups in strengthening their mental health promotion work, through awareness of their own role and undertaking activities to increase participation and form partnerships, for the individuals to be able to participate in meaningful activity. The ABC program has been shown to establish sustainable partnerships among stakeholders, introduce changes in health systems, reduce mental health related stigma and increase awareness about what people can and should do to protect their mental health (Koushede, 2015).
The purpose of the present study is to implement an ABC program among stakeholders in a Norwegian municipality, and via action research techniques examine if and how this may lead to more expertise in how to promote mental health in the population. This initiative will contribute to new knowledge in public health work with relevance for similar initiatives in other municipalities.
More about the project
The ABC program guides community groups in strengthening their mental health promotion work, through awareness of their own role and undertaking activities to increase participation and form partnerships, for the individuals to be able to participate in meaningful activity. A vital aspect of mental health promotion is the ability of the individual to participate in meaningful activity. It is therefore of importance in public health work that the local community enables participation in meaningful activity for different groups.
The project will include delivery of the ABC program, and action research based data collection. Activities include a seminar for municipality leaders and employees across many sectors, and local politicians, workshops with smaller groups of targeted stakeholders, use of the internet and and participatory approaches.
Prof. Sidsel Sverdrup, VID, Co-supervisor