The Application of Salutogenesis in Communities and Neighborhoods

Vaandrager, L.; Kennedy, L.


There is growing consensus that the places where people live and the various social processes, relationships, and psychosocial concepts associated with strong healthy communities and neighborhoods make an important contribution to health. Where you live makes a considerable difference; people living in more affluent communities, for example, are more likely to experience better self-reported health and well-being. This is particularly evident in current theoretical and policy debates concerning the salutogenic and so-called strength or assets-based approach to health; healthy communities have various social and physical resources available, which if they can recognize, share and utilize, can result in stronger SOC, increasing their ability to cope and thrive. Within health promotion we actively encourage communities to organize themselves for better health and well-being. The concept of “community” is both complex and subjective and difficult to define. So we start by conceptualizing the definitions, dimensions, and meanings of community—beyond a physical location—underpinning this chapter. There are several ideas linking the community or neighborhood as a setting, including community as a place to live, connectedness (social capital) and social action (the development of a strong SOC). The evidence is variable in quality and furthermore, few studies explicitly apply the theory of salutogenesis when they study health and well-being in the community context. The body of this chapter is devoted therefore to summarizing the available research about salutogenic and asset-based community interventions, drawing upon examples from empirical work. In doing so, we will highlight debates emerging around the concepts of a salutogenic framework and health assets in relation to community and neighborhood. As such, we are specifically interested in examining the resources (and/or assets) of communities and neighborhoods and the associated processes enabling these resources to be accessed for the benefit of the community’s health and well-being.