Journal article

An analysis of local government health policy against state priorities and a social determinants framework

1 Apr 2016


Objective: Victorian local governments are required to develop Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plans that incorporate state-level health planning priorities and address the social determinants of health. This paper describes a novel method for evaluating councils' performance against these requirements.

Methods: Deductive content analysis was used to categorise all actions in 14 local government MPHWPs against Victorian state priorities as well as against social determinants of health policy areas.

Results: More than 1,000 actions were identified. However, fewer than half directly addressed a state priority, with many actions addressing policy areas known to be broader determinants of health. In particular, there was a marked focus on leisure and culture, and on building social cohesion through changes to living and working conditions.

Conclusions: Councils are working beyond state priorities and there was a clear emphasis on addressing the diverse upstream ‘causes of the causes’ of health, rather than health promotion behaviour change programs.

Implications: The approach for data analysis and presentation provides a useful method for rapid appraisal of health and wellbeing actions relative to councils', and the State's, responsibility and efficacy in public health.

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