The development and implementation of multisectoral policy to improve health and reduce health inequities has been slow and uneven. Evidence is largely focused on the facts of health inequities rather than understanding the political and policy processes. This 5-year funded programme of research investigates how these processes could function more effectively to improve equitable population health. Methods and analysis The programme of work is organised in four work packages using four themes (macroeconomics and infrastructure, land use and urban environments, health systems and racism) related to the structural drivers shaping the distribution of power, money and resources and daily living conditions. Policy case studies will use publicly available documents (policy documents, published evaluations, media coverage) and interviews with informants (policy-makers, former politicians, civil society, private sector) (∼25 per case). NVIVO software will be used to analyse the documents to see how social and health equity' is included and conceptualised. The interview data will include qualitative descriptive and theory-driven critical discourse analysis. Our quantitative methodological work assessing the impact of public policy on health equity is experimental that is in its infancy but promises to provide the type of evidence demanded by policy-makers. Ethics and dissemination Our programme is recognising the inherently political nature of the uptake, formulation and implementation of policy. The early stages of our work indicate its feasibility. Our work is aided by a Critical Policy Reference Group. Multiple ethics approvals have been obtained with the foundation approval from the Social and Behavioural Ethics Committee, Flinders University (Project No: 6786). The theoretical, methodological and policy engagement processes established will provide improved evidence for policy-makers who wish to reduce health inequities and inform a new generation of policy savvy knowledge on social determinants.