How do public health advocates and practitioners encourage policy actors to address the social determinants of health? What strategies can be used to elevate healthy social policies onto government agendas? In this paper, we examine the case of Australia's first national paid parental leave scheme, announced in 2009 after decades of policy advocacy. This scheme provides job-protected leave and government-funded pay at the minimum wage for 18 weeks for eligible primary care givers on the birth of an infant, and has been shown to reduce health inequities. Drawing on documentary sources and interviews (n = 25) with key policy actors, this paper traces the evolution of this landmark social policy in Australia, focusing on the role of actors, institutions and policy framings in setting the policy agenda. We find that advocates strategically deployed three different framings-for economy, gender equality and health-to drive paid parental leave onto the Government's agenda. They navigated barriers linked to power, gender ideology and cost, shifting tactics along the way by adopting different frames in various institutional settings and broadening their coalitions. Health arguments varied in different institutional settings and, at times, advocates selectively argued the economic or gender equality framing over health. The case illustrates the successful use of strategic pragmatism to provoke action, and raises broader lessons for advancing action on the social determinants of health. In particular, the case highlights the importance of adopting multiple synergistic policy framings to draw support from non-traditional allies and building coalitions to secure public policy change.
- healthy public policy
- paid parental leave
- social determinants of health
- social policy