Capitalizing on the strengths of persons with a rheumatic disease

Project period



South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority


A growing body of literature suggests that interventions to help people activate their strengths can promote wellbeing and health. Personal health-related strengths have been defined as «the repertoire of potentials – internal and external strength qualities in the individual’s possession, both innate and acquired – that mobilize positive health behaviors and optimal health/wellness outcomes».

Capitalizing on strengths is especially important for people living with chronic illness, where management of the condition is largely based on their own health behavior and self-management efforts. Despite the importance of personal health-related strengths, they may still be a neglected resource in the health care of persons with chronic illnesses.

For persons with a rheumatic disease self-management involves managing symptoms, medicines and changes in function and lifestyle. The symptoms – pain, stiffness and fatigue – and the challenging self-management efforts can cause emotional distress that further increases the burden of the condition.

Person-centered care that meets each patient’s preferences, needs, and values – in terms of symptoms and strengths – is essential for the quality of health care. Achieving this can, however, be challenging within the short time frame of a clinical consultation. Methods to support person-centeredness and patient involvement include self-assessment questionnaires given to the patient prior to the consultation to prepare both partners for a dialog and shared decision making. Use of an electronic interactive tailored patient assessment tool (ITPA) where patients rank their symptoms according to their priorities for care, and the resulting assessment summary is made available to both clinician and patient has been shown to have positive effects on the quality of clinical consultations and patients’ outcomes. So far, most ITPAs include items on symptoms and concerns with little or no attention to personal strengths. It is hypothesized that a strength-focused ITPA could further enhance the quality of the consultation.

The purpose of this study is to develop an innovated ITPA for use in clinical practice to support assessment and mobilization of strengths in persons with rheumatic diseases. The study responds to the recent call for improved health care for the large group of persons living with chronic musculoskeletal pain and rheumatic diseases in Norway.


  • Heidi Zangi, PhD

    National Advisory Unit on Rehabilitation in Rheumatology Diakonhjemmet Hospital

  • Kåre Birger Hagen

    National Advisory Unit on Rehabilitation in Rheumatology (NKRR) Diakonhjemmet Hospital

  • Kurt Stange

    Case Western Reserve University, USA

  • Una Stenberg

    Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Learning and Mastery in Health, Oslo University Hospital