Disappearing health system building blocks in the health promotion policy context in South Australia (2003-2013)

Lori Baugh Littlejohns, Fran Baum, Angela Lawless, Toby Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Policy contexts for health promotion (HP) are often reported to be unsupportive. However, in South Australia, there is a long history of support. This paper reports on the research question: To what extent were key South Australian (SA) policies and strategic documents supportive of HP and health system building blocks for HP from 2003 to 2013? Twenty SA government documents were examined through an analysis of HP (goal, actions and strategies) and World Health Organization health system building blocks. The policy and practice context changed from strong support for HP in 2003 to its near abandonment in 2013. Key findings include: a wavering commitment to reducing health inequities as well as indeterminate support for community participation. In terms of leadership and governance for HP, there was an abdication of ‘health governance’ for reorienting health services toward HP, although there was a strong focus on ‘governance for health’ through intersectoral collaboration. Other system building blocks were supported to varying levels; however, in 2013, financing, workforce and HP practice were found to have disappeared from the policy agenda. Information as a system building block was also a key theme. On one hand, the importance of monitoring population health was commonly discussed, and on the other, the lack of evidence of HP effectiveness was significant in decisions that led to the decline in the HP policy and practice. This review of key SA government documents over a 10-year period offered a striking picture of how the HP policy context changed in one Australian state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-240
Number of pages13
JournalCritical Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


  • Health promotion policy
  • health system building blocks
  • South Australia


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