The ability of its initiators to respond to its needs is also of critical importance. Current paper focuses on empowerment as a tool for developing health promotion schemes. Empowerment is a concept related to various activities; in the healthcare sector empowerment reflects the support provided to individuals so that they can act independently for improving their health. The aspects of empowerment, as used in general and in particular in the healthcare sector are presented below; emphasis is given on the theoretical approaches used for explaining the involvement of empowerment in the healthcare sector. It is proved that empowerment can be viable in health promotion but only if certain conditions exist; the internal and external environment of each case and the ability of the medical staff involved in the relevant schemes are quite important for ensuring the success of empowerment in the specific field. The differentiations identified in the interpretation of empowerment in health promotion can be considered as justified, taking into consideration the significant differences that can be identified in healthcare settings worldwide, as this issue is analytically explained below.
2. Meaning of empowerment
In order to understand the role of empowerment in health promotion, it would be necessary to refer primarily to the context of empowerment, i.e. its characteristics and mission, as identified in various social areas. Then, its use in health promotion could be evaluated taking into consideration the needs of the specific sector, as identified in healthcare settings worldwide. In accordance with Ginnodo (1997) the development of an accurate definition on empowerment is a challenging task. The reason is that the specific concept is extremely generic, having the ability to incorporate a wide range of roles and activities. In a broad explanation of this term, the following definition could be given: empowerment is ‘to provide with the means and opportunity to make decisions and take actions which directly affect the customer’ (Ginnodo 1997, p.33). Based on the above definition, the following key characteristics of empowerment should be highlighted: empowerment needs to be provided, in other words, it cannot be assumed as existing. Rather it should be clearly given, under the terms that it can be used appropriately, meaning the skills and the capabilities of the person who is provided with empowerment (Barry et al. 2006). In any case, the discretion provided through empowerment is rather limited. In accordance with Ginnodo (1997) empowerment is differentiated from ‘dumping and anarchy’ (Ginnodo 1997, p.34). This means that empowerment needs to be based on specific rules/ suggestions which will be ordered without discriminating – always under the terms that the ‘empowered’ is able to understand and follow the particular orders. On the other hand, the elements and the requirements of empowerment can be differentiated across social and business activities; in business, the term empowerment is considered as a key tool for increasing motivation and self-confidence of employees (Quinn et al. 1998). From this point of view, in business area, empowerment is related to concepts and initiatives as organizational supervision, criteria of reward and job design (Quinn et al. 1998). Indeed, when empowerment needs to be evaluated as an element of the business environment, emphasis should be given to the following issue: at what level empowerment has actually promoted self-efficacy across the organization. At this point, the skills of the manager can be also revealed taking into consideration the tasks allocated to employees – under the terms that the goals set need to be achievable, based on the skills of each employee