Health promotion and prevention activities always take place in a political context. Health promotion and prevention, in a larger sense, are therefore also political activities. Depending on the societal context and the political framework, health promotion is sometimes understood to be a social and political responsibility or is, on the other hand, seen as the individual affair of each member of society. Health promotion and prevention are shaped by contextual conditions but also leave their own mark on them and thus contribute to sustainable health promoting conditions. Depending on how the societal context is perceived, assessed or influenced, it plays a crucial role in health promotion and prevention.
The concept of Best Practice developed by Health Promotion Switzerland defines the framework for professional actions and decisions. Societal, socio-economic and cultural contexts as well as value and knowledge dimensions are important factors. Best practice requires good knowledge and careful analysis of the important contextual factors and is deemed to be a prerequisite for successful intervention.
A contextual analysis is indispensable for identifying the contextual factors that will be important in the planning of a project. The analysis aims at recognizing and assessing all important contextual factors in order to take them into account when implementing a project. The identification of these factors will help in the recognition and control of the forces that may influence a project. Particular interests and potential sources of conflict are more easily identified. Dealing with contextual factors means:
Describing contextual factors and knowing how they influence interventions also provides valuable experience and insight for other interventions. However, caution is required when transferring knowledge and experiences from one particular project to another context, i.e. when making generalizations. Contexts vary considerably and a comparative contextual analysis is recommended in order to identify similarities and differences - and to factor them in when transferring experiences.
The Context Check grid provided by the Best Practice concept is a necessary aid for a systematic analysis of all relevant contextual factors. Systematic scanning questions concerning factors on the local, regional and national level are provided. For the analysis of political factors, the following questions are important:
Leadership questions regarding health promotion and prevention need to be asked, e.g.: Is anybody already advocating a particular theme? Who can be approached and won over as a promoter in terms of power, expertise and finance? How can leadership be established and strengthened?
Thinking systematically about the important factors heightens awareness for contextual conditions: feasibility assessment is realistic - resistance, conflicts and new chances are detected and networking opportunities and multiplication of good ideas are not overlooked.