The Art and Science of Health Promotion

Examining the mix of influences on health behavior change.

The Art and Science of Health Promotion Conference, which annually convenes practitioners and academics from disparate scientific fields related to health promotion, has begun focusing on a concept called “AMSO” to spark healthier lifestyles. AMSO stands for “Awareness, Motivation, Skills, and Opportunity.”

The AMSO concept was developed by conference program chairperson Dr. Michael O’Donnell, who served as Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Health Promotion from 1986-2016 and coauthored all five editions of the book Health Promotion in The Workplace. O’Donnell has managed many programs and conducted extensive research on the effectiveness of various workplace health programs over the past 30 years to discover what truly works.

O’ Donnell said, “The AMSO Framework is relevant for changing any type of behavior at the individual or organization level.” He said all the best-performing programs incorporate the AMSO elements, even though they might not know the AMSO Framework.



Awareness is understanding the relationship between lifestyle and health outcomes. It used to be the primary focus of programs, but stimulates very little health behavior change, maybe only 5%.


Motivation drives why people want to change; it is rarely to improve health and more often related to their underlying passions or purpose in life. Motivation may account for as much as 30% of successful change.


Success behavior change requires learning new skills and having the right skills can increase success rates by as much as seven-fold. Having the right skills accounts for about 25% of successful change.


Having opportunities to practice healthy life style is probably the most important factor, accounting for up to 40% of successful change. Our behaviors are influenced by our peers; the policies of the organizations we encounter; local, state and federal laws; societal norms, the natural and build environment; and social equality.

O’Donnell noted that knowing your audience — and not confusing it with yourself — is critical. To illustrate, he said, “I’m a health nut. I want to be healthy because ‘I want to be healthy.’ For most people, health does not drive them. They want to be a good parent, a successful professional, look great, be a strong witness to their faith, or something else. I still have to remind myself of that all the time, and other health professionals should, too.”

The annual Art and Science of Health Promotion conference explores the most effective best practice strategies and the most powerful scientific discoveries. O’Donnell added, “Each year we try to push the envelope with our themes. This year is exploring what is the right mix in awareness, motivation, skills and opportunities to create behavior change.”

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For more information, visit the Art and Science of Health Promotion conference website. Read more about the AMSO theme here.

Originally published at

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