Challenging Institutional Norms to Improve Local-Level Policy for Health and Health Equity; Comment on “Health Promotion at Local Level in Norway: The Use of Public Health Coordinators and Health Overviews to Promote Fair Distribution Among Social Groups”

Document Type: Commentary

Author

Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Abstract

The article by Susanne Hagen and colleagues on Health Promotion at Local Level in Norway discusses actions by municipal governments to assess and address heath inequities within their respective regions, as required under the Norwegian Public Health Act (PHA). Although the broad intent of the Norwegian government is to encourage action on social determinants of health (SDH), Hagen et al find that many of the initiatives undertaken by municipalities ‘tend to cash out as single, targeted initiatives,’ and focus on individual behaviours. In this commentary, I use the concept of place-based policy and ideas from policy theory on the institutional behaviours of public policy agencies and services, to discuss reasons behind this narrowing of perspective and policy action. I argue in favour of an alternative approach involving public agencies and services supporting processes of community-led action and social change.

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