‘To recover a sense of the sacred in ourselves and in everything around us’: Exploring the place of spirituality in Canadian health promotion
The field of health promotion advocates a socioecological approach to health which addresses a wide variety of physical, social, environmental, political and cultural factors. Encouraging a holistic approach, health promotion examines many aspects of health and well-being, including physical, mental, sexual, community, social and ecological health. Despite this holism, there is a noticeable absence of discussion surrounding spirituality and spiritual health in the discipline of health promotion. For this thesis project, I was interested in exploring how leading scholars in the field of health promotion, in Canada, understand the place of spirituality in health promotion. Using the fourth edition of Health Promotion in Canada (Rootman et al., 2017) as my sampling frame of recognized leaders in the field, I conducted thirteen semi-structured qualitative interviews with authors from the book. Situated within a critical health promotion approach which utilizes methodologies aiming for social justice, equity and ecological sustainability, I intend to open up possibilities for centering spiritual epistemologies and other ways of knowing that have been marginalized, such as Indigenous understandings of health and wellbeing. I argue that by avoiding spirituality within health promotion frameworks and education, the secularism of health promotion and its underlying values of Eurocentric knowledge production and science remain invisible and rarely critiqued. The absence of spirituality in health promotion signifies the ongoing colonialism of the field. This must be addressed if health promotion is to respond effectively to the calls to action from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (2015), and if health promotion is to fulfill its promise of being inclusive, relevant and effective.