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Good human functioning, health and the promotion of health

Wolfgang A. Markham (Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 5 November 2019

Issue publication date: 13 November 2019




The purpose of this paper is to extend a theory of health promoting schools (Markham and Aveyard, 2003) that draws heavily upon Nussbaum’s Aristotelian interpretation of good human functioning (Nussbaum, 1990). This theory of health promoting schools proposed that health is grounded in the meeting of identified fundamental human needs and the realisation of identified essential human capacities (Markham and Aveyard, 2003).


The extension of this theory is achieved through the application of influential social theories with practical tenets to Nussbaum’s insights (Nussbaum, 1990). This extension includes additional essential human capacities, a description and definition of how good human functioning may be recognised, potential limitations of the capabilities approaches and a discussion of major factors inhibiting good human functioning.


The potential contribution of the outlined framework to discussions of health and health promotion is highlighted in two ways. First, this paper considers how the outlined framework may contribute to discussions of quality of life, morbidity/premature mortality and health-related behaviours. Second, this paper briefly considers how the outlined framework may contribute to discussions of public health policy, and the planning, delivery and evaluation of health promotion initiatives. Basic exemplar pre- and post-questionnaires for a hypothetical health promoting community development programme are offered.


This paper attempts to contribute to discussions of the application of Nussbaum’s Aristotelean interpretation of good human functioning to both public health and health promotion.



Erratum: It has come to the attention of the publisher that the article Wolfgang A. Markham ‘Good human functioning, health and the promotion of health’ published in Health Education on EarlyCite incorrectly placed the paragraph that begins ‘The term nurturing is taken to include both the provision…’ on page 3. This paragraph should follow the above paragraph that ends ‘“The capacity to nurture and be nurtured throughout the lifecourse and the subsequent development of the ability to trust and be trusted”’. This error was introduced in the editorial process and has now been corrected in the online version. The publisher sincerely apologises for this error and for any inconvenience caused.

The author would like to thank Professor Rita Jordan and Professor Jonathan Wolff for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


Markham, W.A. (2019), "Good human functioning, health and the promotion of health", Health Education, Vol. 119 No. 5/6, pp. 382-407.



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