Department of Health Promotion and Development

Positive Deviance Database

According to the Positive Deviance Initiative, positive deviance is “the observation that in every community or organization, there are a few individuals or groups whose uncommon but successful behaviors and strategies have enabled them to find better solutions to problems than their neighbors who face the same challenges and barriers and have access to same resources”.

Positive deviance
Positive deviance

Main content

Access to Database Positive Devience

Access to Database Positive Health Indicators

How do I use the database?


There are three main ways of finding content in the database

  1. Via the folders.  Select a relevant folder from the menu on the left and browse the content.
  2. Via the ‘search library’ option on the right in the black menu at the top of the page.  This option performs a search in the folder you have selected from the menu on the left.  If you wish to search all folders, select the top folder called ‘Library’.
  3. Via tags.  Below the folders on the left, there is a large group of tags.  To see more tags, click the ‘more’ button at the bottom of the tag collection.  You can search for tags in the tag search field.  You select a tag by clicking it, and deselect by clicking once more.  Important: The search engine searches for combinations of all the tags you have selected. Make sure you have not selected more tags than you wish to.


By which criteria are the articles in the database classified?

The articles are classified in folders based on their main topic. The different folders are:

·         Concept of Positive Deviance

·         Development

·         Health Care

·         Management and Innovation

·         Nutrition

·         Physical Activity / Sports

·         Positive Organizational Scholarship

·         Related Concepts

·         School System

·         Reproductive Health

·         Smoking

·        Systems Engineering

·         Typology

·         Weight Control



What do I find in the database?


What is the content of the database?

The database contains scientific and grey literature related to positive deviance.


Is all literature in the database purely about positive deviance?

No, not all literature is purely about positive deviance. Some literature contains concepts that are related to the concept of positive deviance. Moreover, it is uncertain if the concept of positive deviance is applied in an accurate way in all literature of the database.


Do I get access to the full text versions of all literature in the database?

No, not automatically. The access is determined by your license to view full text versions of journals and books (e.g.). However in the database, titles, tags and abstracts are available without full access.


What kind of literature is selected for the database?

The aim of the database is to give an overview of all the available literature related to positive deviance. Therefore, scientific and grey literature related to positive deviance was selected for this database. However, it was impossible within the timeframe of this research to create a database which includes all the current literature. In addition, in the future new literature related to positive deviance should be added to this database to stay accurate.


Positive deviance and Health promotion


Positive deviance is a relevant concept for health promotion. Health promotion is “the process of enabling individuals and communities to increase control over, and to improve, their health” (World Health Organization, 1986, p. 1). The first time that positive deviance was used to solve a problem was in relation to child malnutrition. Viet Nam, Bangladesh, and Haiti were the first countries where an integrated positive deviance approach was used to rehabilitate malnourished children, and with success. The positive deviance approach continued to be used to rehabilitate malnourished children, but also to decrease infant and child mortality rates and to stimulate child growth.


Positive deviance is not only used with success in the field of child nutrition, but it is also used to tackle other health related problems. Several researchers have argued that positive deviance is suitable to improve health care management. Positive deviance is used successfully to improve the quality of health care in various ways, such as to improve chronic disease management, acute myocardial infarction care, and diabetes care. Several hospital infections have been successfully prevented by using positive deviance. It is used to improve hand hygiene compliance, to prevent MRSA infections, and to prevent other hospital infections, such as multidrug-resistant organisms and bloodstream infections.


Positive deviance has been used in several cases to improve reproductive health, namely through stimulating contraceptive use, improving pregnancy outcomes, improving maternal and newborn care, preventing HIV infection, and decreasing sexual violence. Positive deviance has also been used to address problems related to sports and physical activity, weight control, healthy eating, cancer, and smoking. However, it has not been used elaborately to solve these health related problems, since positive deviance is a relatively new concept.


World Health Organization. (1986). Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (pp. 1–5). Presented at the First International Conference on Health Promotion, Ottawa: World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/129532/Ottawa_Charte...




Project Report

Who is responsible for creating this database?

Guest researchers at the Department of Health Promotion and Development (HEMIL) at the University of Bergen in Norway have created the database. The guest researchers were students from the master program Health and Society of the Wageningen University in the Netherlands.


Geke van Dick & Rianca Scheffel

Maurice B. Mittelmark, Prof. (supervisor)

For more information please see  "Positive deviance: A literarure review about the relevance for heath promotion".