Targeted health dialogues from a socio-economic perspective

A new doctoral thesis from the School of Health and Welfare at Jönköping University explores targeted health dialogues and how physical activity and socio-economic status affect health. The results show, among other things, that more knowledge is needed about the relationship between physical activity and health for different socio-economic groups.

Lisbeth Johansson defended her dissertation on April 5 at the School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping University

To improve public health, it is crucial to work with health promotion measures, where primary care plays a central role. An important aspect is to reduce health inequalities, which is reflected in the Swedish Health and Medical Services Act, which requires primary care to conduct population-based health promotion work.

A specific tool for health promotion work is targeted health dialogues offered in primary care for first-time parents and for individuals in the year they turn 40, 50, 60, and 70. These dialogues involve individuals answering questions about their health and undergoing various health measurements. The results are used to create a health profile and form the basis for discussions between the participant and healthcare professionals.

Special focus on the socio-economic perspective

The studies in the thesis, based on targeted health dialogues, aim broadly to increase understanding of the relationship between physical activity and health in the adult population. This is done from a so-called salutogenic perspective, focusing on health-promoting factors and resources. A particular focus is placed on the socio-economic perspective because it is a known factor in terms of unequal health in Sweden.

“People with lower socio-economic status are generally less physically active and often have poorer health than those with higher socio-economic status. This thesis is based on whether individuals themselves have reported financial concerns. More knowledge is needed about the relationship between physical activity and health for different socio-economic groups,” says Lisbeth Johansson, doctoral student at the School of Health and Welfare, who also works within Region Jönköping County with targeted health dialogues.

The results show, among other things, that physically active individuals with financial difficulties had roughly the same self-perceived health as individuals with good finances but with low physical activity. Additionally, those who were more physically active and had financial challenges showed increased confidence in their ability to change their life situation and perceived themselves as livelier and more energetic than those with low physical activity.

Can further develop targeted health dialogues

Participants in one of the thesis's sub-studies described both the benefits and barriers of physical activity. Despite challenges, they made plans to maintain their activity levels and experienced positive effects such as reduced pain, improved sleep, and appetite, feeling more lively and happier, and overall better well-being.

“The thesis can provide deeper knowledge and understanding of the relationship between physical activity and health, as well as the benefits that physical activity provides, in relation to socio-economic status. It can also be helpful in further developing targeted health dialogues to, in a salutogenic manner, primarily provide people with lower socio-economic status the opportunity to use their resources to increase their physical activity and thus also improve their health,” says Lisbeth Johansson.

In summary, the thesis highlights the importance of increasing physical activity among the population, especially among those with lower socio-economic status. By understanding the relationship between activity and health, targeted health dialogues and other interventions can be developed to improve health and well-being for all.

The studies in the thesis have been conducted through interviews with participants, as well as through measurements of physical activity and responses to questionnaires.

The thesis is titled "To do or not to do? Physical activity in relation to socioeconomic status and health – a salutogenic perspective in the context of targeted health dialogues" and is available to read here.

Lisbeth Johansson defended her thesis on April 5 at the School of Health and Welfare. The opponent was Mai-Lis Hellénius, professor, Karolinska Institutet.