To what extent do Australian health policy documents address social determinants of health and health equity?

Ian Fisher, Frances Baum, Colin MacDougall, Lareen Newman, Dennis McDermott

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    23 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Evidence on social determinants of health and health equity (SDH/HE) is abundant but often not translated into effective policy action by governments. Governments' health policies have continued to privilege medical care and individualised behaviour-change strategies. In the light of these limitations, the 2008 Commission on the Social Determinants of Health called on health agencies to adopt a stewardship role; to take action themselves and engage other government sectors in addressing SDH/HE. This article reports on research using analysis of health policy documents - published by nine Australian national or regional governments - to examine the extent to which the Australian health sector has taken up such a role. We found policies across all jurisdictions commonly recognised evidence on SDH/HE and expressed goals to improve health equity. However, these goals were predominantly operationalised in health care and other individualised strategies. Relatively few strategies addressed SDH/HE outside of access to health care, and often they were limited in scope. National policies on Aboriginal health did most to systemically address SDH/HE. We used Kingdon's (2011) multiple streams theory to examine how problems, policies and politics combine to enable, partially allow, or prevent action on SDH/HE in Australian health policy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)545-564
    Number of pages20
    JournalJournal of Social Policy
    Volume45
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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