Where is the river? - Exploring the implications of the sociocultural aspects of salutogenesis for health education curriculum and research

Year: 2016

Author: Mccuaig, Louise, Quennerstedt, Mikael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Feedback from the profession in response to the draft Shape of the Australian Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum document (ACARA, 2012), overwhelmingly supported the notion of a strengths-based approach to Australian HPE. Yet, such affirmation appears to have emerged within an Australian and international context that had little practical evidence of what such an approach might look like within a school curriculum. In this presentation, we explore the diverse ways in which the strengths-based approach has been interpreted since the release of the draft HPE curriculum, and compare this to the salutogenic origins of the strengths-based proposition for Australian HPE. We then present Aaron Antonovky’s (1996) critique of the popular public health river metaphor, in which he argued that in contrast to curative and preventive medicine’s preoccupation with saving swimmers from the river, from a salutogenic perspective nobody is actually on the shore, we are all, always in the river of life. Contemporary salutogenic research however, has tended to focus attention on the swimmer to the exclusion of questions concerning the water in which swimmers are immersed. In so doing, we suggest that salutogenic research has missed opportunities to explore the sociological aspects of Antonovsky’s work. In our efforts to address this absence, we identify the sociocultural aspects of salutogenic theory and review a range of health studies to propose a collection of salutogenically-oriented inquiry questions, which we suggest can operationalize research and school health education programs that capture the endeavours of the swimmer, the nature of the river and the dynamic relationships between them.