Spirituality as a Public Health Issue: The Potential Role of Spirituality in Promoting Health

  • Richard EganEmail author
  • Fiona Timmins


The public health mandate is to improve, promote and protect human health and well-being: arguably, spirituality is both a dimension and a determinant of both. Although there is growing support for a more holistic public health approach, spirituality itself is not often deemed a public health priority. This chapter aims to highlight the potential for further integration of spirituality within the realm of public health research and practice. Overall, the published spirituality in healthcare research has an almost exclusively ‘downstream’ focus, meaning that the research focuses on patients, families and disease states. An ‘upstream’ focus would focus on policy factors. Despite there being abundant clinically focused evidence, spirituality still remains a forgotten element in much of the public health research to date. Furthermore, spirituality is virtually absent from the public health research agenda. Spirituality in public health must be encouraged via a new and improved research agenda. Importantly, the inclusion of spirituality within national public health remit may provide a new lens through which to examine fundamental questions about our collective values, principles, purpose and meaning.


Spirituality Religion Public health Health promotion 



Enhancing Nurses and Midwives’ Competence in Providing Spiritual Care through Innovation Education and Compassionate Care


New Zealand


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


United Kingdom


United Nations


World Health Organization



We acknowledge Anna de Mello for her comments and edits on the final draft of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cancer Society Social and Behavioural Research Unit, Department of Preventive and Social MedicineDunedin School of Medicine, University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College DublinDublinIreland

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