Health promotion

The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion

First International Conference on Health Promotion, Ottawa, 21 November 1986


Health Promotion Emblem

A brief explanation of the logo used by WHO since the First International Conference on Health Promotion held in Ottawa, Canada, in 1986. Select an element of the logo for the specific explanation of that part or simply read on for the complete explanation.

This logo was created for the First International Conference on Health Promotion held in Ottawa, Canada, in 1986. At that conference, the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion was launched. Since then, WHO kept this symbol as the Health Promotion logo (HP logo), as it stands for the approach to health promotion as outlined in the Ottawa Charter.

The logo represents a circle with 3 wings. It incorporates five key action areas in Health Promotion (build healthy public policy, create supportive environments for health, strengthen community action for health, develop personal skills, and re-orient health services) and three basic HP strategies (to enable, mediate, and advocate).

The main graphic elements of the HP logo are:

  • one outside circle,
  • one round spot within the circle, and
  • three wings that originate from this inner spot, one of which is breaking the outside circle.

a) The outside circle, originally in red colour, is representing the goal of "Building Healthy Public Policies", therefore symbolising the need for policies to "hold things together". This circle is encompassing the three wings, symbolising the need to address all five key action areas of health promotion identified in the Ottawa Charter in an integrated and complementary manner.

b) The round spot within the circle stands for the three basic strategies for health promotion, "enabling, mediating, and advocacy ", which are needed and applied to all health promotion action areas . (Complete definitions of these terms can be found in the Health Promotion Glossary, WHO/HPR/HEP/98.1)

c) The three wings represent (and contain the words of) the five key action areas for health promotion that were identified in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion in 1986 and were reconfirmed in the Jakarta Declaration on Leading Health Promotion into the 21st Century in 1997.

More specifically:

  • the upper wing that is breaking the circle represents that action is needed to "strengthen community action" and to "develop personal skills". This wing is breaking the circle to symbolise that society and communities as well as individuals are constantly changing and, therefore, the policy sphere has to constantly react and develop to reflect these changes: a "Healthy Public Policy" is needed;
  • the middle wing on the right side represents that action is needed to "create supportive environments for health"
  • the bottom wing represents that action is needed to "reorient health services" towards preventing diseases and promoting health.

Overall, the logo visualises the idea that Health Promotion is a comprehensive, multi-strategy approach. HP applies diverse strategies and methods in an integrated manner - one of the preconditions "for Health Promotion to be effective" (Jakarta Declaration 1997). Health Promotion addresses the key action areas identified in the Ottawa Charter in an integrated and coherent way.

The term Health Promotion (HP) was, and still today is sometimes, narrowly used as equivalent for Health Education (HE). But HE is one of several key components and action areas of HP as illustrated by the HP logo(see the key action area of "develop personal skills").

The HP logo and approach were reinforced at the second and third conferences on Health Promotion that took place in Sundsvall and in Adelaide.

In the light of the venue of the Fourth International Conference on Health Promotion, that was held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in July 1997, the design of the Ottawa logo was slightly modified to reflect culture and atmosphere of the host country of the conference, making sure that the shape and elements of the original logo were preserved, together with its inner meaning.

The Jakarta Conference logo is a more open and slightly more abstract version of the original HP logo from Ottawa. The three wings, that are now in brick-red colour, still represent the key HP action areas. The outside circle and the inner spot of the Ottawa logo are merged into a unique blue spot from where the three wings originate. This still symbolises that HP addresses its action areas with an integrated multi-strategic approach. Overall, the design of the HP logo adapted for the Conference in Jakarta is more open and lively; all the wings are now reaching out of the circle. This, visualizes the fact that the field of HP has grown and developed, and that today and in the future HP is outreaching to new players and partners, at all levels of society, from local to global level.

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