Asset-based approaches are becoming more common within public health interventions; however, due to variations in terminology, it can be difficult to identify asset-based approaches. The study aimed to develop and test a framework that could distinguish between asset-based and deficit-based community studies, whilst acknowledging there is a continuum of approaches. Literature about asset-based and deficit-based approaches were reviewed and a framework was developed based on the Theory of Change model. A scoring system was developed for each of the five elements in the framework based on this model. Measurement of community engagement was built in, and a way of capturing how much the study involved an asset approach. The framework was tested on 13 studies examining community-based interventions to investigate whether it could characterize asset-based versus deficit-based studies. The framework demonstrated how much the principles underpinning asset-based approaches were present and distinguished between studies where the approach was deficit-based to those that had some elements of an asset-based approach. This framework is useful for researchers and policymakers when determining how much of an intervention is asset-based and identifying which elements of asset-based approaches lead to an intervention working.

Deficit-based approaches are a common approach to addressing public health issues within a community and involve identifying a health problem or need and finding a way to solve these. However, asset-based approaches, those that involve the community using its assets, or strengths, to enable community members to have more control over their health and wellbeing, are increasingly common. The terminology used to describe these methods varies greatly so it can be difficult to identify whether an approach is more deficit-based or asset-based. To address this a framework was developed to identify and score elements of asset-based studies. We did this by reviewing academic information describing asset-based approaches and built into this a scoring system. This framework was used to assess and measure the degree to which 13 community-based studies took an asset-based approach.

The framework was able to identify studies which were more asset-based in their approach compared to those which were more deficit-focused, acknowledging that some studies may have elements of each approach. This framework will be useful for people working in health policy and research who want a resource to help identify asset-based approaches in practice and which aspects of the approach were important for its success in the community.

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