Once the objectives for the project have been formulated, the method or the strategies by which they can best be achieved must be determined. When addressing this question, two levels must be distinguished: strategy and measures. While strategies describe how to proceed in principle, measures are concrete activities derived from strategies that have a direct reference to particular objectives, defined deadlines and responsibilities. Usually, there are several alternative methods for reaching project goals. From the point of view of health promotion, the best method is the one that meets two fundamental criteria: the principles of participation, empowerment and health equity have to be observed both in theory and in practice, and the input in terms of financial means and personnel has to be as small as possible (best possible cost-benefit ratio).
It is preferable to envisage a strategy that has already been successful in other projects. If this is not possible, e.g. if the project is an innovative one, the choice of strategy still needs to be justified. A useful way to do this is to refer to theoretical effect or outcome models. If the project is about modifying individual health behavior, for example, you could refer to the Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM). If an intervention is planned in a setting, on the other hand, a model of organization development (OD) would be more appropriate.
Depending on the theme, the context and the objectives of a project, it could also make sense to plan different strategies in parallel. Particularly effective and lasting interventions in health promotion are those that simultaneously target several of the five intervention levels defined by the Ottawa Charter.
Why you would disregard these aspects
- You are fully convinced by your own approach and you do not think that a justification based on professional theory is needed.
- Your project is a pilot and you are testing new approaches for practical feasibility and efficacy. Therefore, you do not think that you need to justify your methodological choice.
- You are already fully occupied with the implementation of measures and you have somewhat lost the strategic overview (you can’t ‘see the wood for the trees’).
What you have to gain
Health is primarily promoted by appropriate methodology, methods and approaches. If you can justify your own approach in a professional and convincing manner, you increase the chances that you will use your resources carefully and efficiently, and that you will gain support and recognition for it.
What you can actually do
Start the planning of your project by defining the vision and the objectives, not by choosing a particular method or strategy. Research the literature and available online information, read evaluation reports and discuss the positive and negative experiences of different strategies with other project leaders and professionals. Think about the criteria by which you can compare and evaluate possible strategies.
Questions for critical reflection
- Is your choice of strategy based on a comparison of possible alternatives?
- Have you thought about the potential effects and side-effects of the chosen strategy on all concerned?