Measuring capabilities in health and physical activity promotion: a systematic review.

Till M, Abu-Omar K, Ferschl S, Reimers AK, Gelius P (2021)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Journal article, Review article

Publication year: 2021


Article Number: 353

DOI: 10.1186/s12889-020-10151-3

Open Access Link:


Background: The capability approach by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum has gained increasing attention in the field of public health. As it combines individual, social and structural factors and shifts the focus of attention from the actual behavior towards available options for health behaviors that people can actually choose from, it may help advance our understanding of complex health issues.

Objectives: The aim of this article is to identify and describe tools available to measure capabilities within the context of health, with a specific focus on capabilities for health-enhancing physical activity.

Method: We conducted a systematic literature review using 11 databases covering scientific journal articles published in English or German between the years 2000 and 2019 with a focus on capabilities for health or physical activity.

Results: We found a total of 44 articles meeting our inclusion criteria. Four articles measured capabilities using qualitative methods, one combined qualitative and quantitative methods, while the rest used quantitative methods. We identified a total 11 different capability questionnaires, all showing moderate to good validity/reliability. Only one questionnaire and one interview-based tool specifically dealt with capabilities for health enhancing physical activity.

Conclusion: Although we were able to identify measurement tools for capabilities in health, this review has shown that there is no generic tool available for the measurement across all population- and age-groups, and tools focusing on physical activity are scarce. However, our results can be used as guide for future projects that aim at measuring capabilities.

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How to cite


Till, M., Abu-Omar, K., Ferschl, S., Reimers, A.K., & Gelius, P. (2021). Measuring capabilities in health and physical activity promotion: a systematic review. BMC Public Health.


Till, Maike, et al. "Measuring capabilities in health and physical activity promotion: a systematic review." BMC Public Health (2021).

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