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Grounded Theory of (Dis)Empowered Outcomes in Healthcare Interventions

The human body is a complex, finely-tuned, and ever-evolving “open system” which is always trying to regain good health. Being an open system, the human body relies on surrounding ecological systems for its sustenance, survival, and growth, making it susceptible to the consequences of these ecological systems. One of the biggest concerns for human health in the 21st century is the ever-increasing obesity rate and its associated mortality rate. Of equal concern is the resultant loss of productivity and the net impact of this on publicly-funded healthcare expenditures. Years of research and investment in health-promotive programmes have failed to stymie the growing obesity epidemic. Evidently, current intervention strategies are not working and are in desperate need of remodelling. Obese individuals attempt to remedy the status quo, but often fail to achieve healthy changes in their lives. These individuals appear to be disempowered entities who seem to have given up on their quest for a better quality of life. The purpose of this grounded theory based enquiry was to develop a substantive theory of the phenomenon of consumer empowerment. The study was designed to explore the multi-level, cross-disciplinary complexities associated with the obesity epidemic and to find a workable solution that would assist with curtailing its growth. The key aim of this research was to understand the social processes that either empower or dis-empower individuals during episodes of consumption. In total, 24 individuals participated in this enquiry by sharing their stories of weight gain and their personal experiences with the weight-management programmes they tried to help them improve their quality of life. The data collection and analysis was guided by the philosophical viewpoints of constructivist grounded theory. This study revealed two core categories that helped explain the processes that either empowered or disempowered individuals during episodes of consumption: feeling entrapped and co-creating empowerment. Data analysis revealed that the processes which either empowered or disempowered individuals during various episodes of consumption were mediated through individually-acting and ecologically-acting influences. Analysis results further suggested if empowered outcomes were desired, then they could only be attained through genuine cooperation and participation amongst members of society at all levels: individual, communal, institutional, and political. Over-reliance on either the individual actor or ecological actor to contribute while the other refrains from contributing would not achieve the desired outcome. This is a significant departure from the current conceptualisation of achieving empowered outcomes. This situation can only be resolved by redefining and operationalising empowerment as a co-created endeavour, one that depends on multi-actor participation. This enquiry presents the impetus for researchers to conceive broader definitions of empowerment as well as consumer empowerment phenomenon that includes not just individual participation, but also ecological contributions to the process. This research has the potential to inform the broader literature on empowerment theory.
Type of thesis
Mandlik, M. A. (2017). Grounded Theory of (Dis)Empowered Outcomes in Healthcare Interventions (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11392
The University of Waikato
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