In Australia and internationally, there are increasing calls for the use of strengths-based methodologies, to counter the dominant deficit discourse that pervades research, policy, and media relating to Indigenous health and wellbeing. However, there is an absence of literature on the practical application of strengths-based approaches to quantitative research.
To empirically evaluate the two approaches described above, the researchers conducted a case study, applying these approaches and the standard Deficit Approach to the same data about the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The researchers conducted a statistical assessment of the quantitative analytical approaches, considering their strengths and limitations compared to the standard Deficit Approach.
These results demonstrate that the application of strengths-based approaches changes the framing of results while retaining identification of statistically significant exposure-outcome associations seen with the standard Deficit Approach. Rather than identifying risk factors for disease, strengths-based approaches enable identification of factors that promote wellbeing. This can enable a more positive story to be told, without altering statistical rigour. This, in turn, is likely to support health-promoting actions.
The population focus of research, and the approach to within- and between-population comparisons, have profound effects on the framing of results. For Indigenous research, a strengths-based approach better reflects community values and principles, and it is more likely to support positive change than standard pathogenic models. Although the development of appropriate methods is in its infancy, these findings demonstrate the practicability of applying such methods and the need for developments in understanding of and policy demand for salutogenic framing, in parallel with methods development.