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Journal article
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To what extent do Australian child and youth health, and education wellbeing policies, address the social determinants of health and health equity? A policy analysis study

Social determinants of health Mental health Public health Child health Social wellbeing Youth development Australia

Children and youth are an important population group requiring specific policies to address their needs. In Australia, most children and youth are doing well, however, certain equity groups are not. To address child and youth health equity in policy, applying a social determinants of health approach is considered best practice. For over 10 years governments in Australia have been called upon to address the social determinants of health, however, there has been limited action. Health and education departments are typically most involved in policy development for children and youth. To date, there have been limited systematic analyses of Australian child and youth health policies, and selected education wellbeing policies, with a social determinants of health and health equity focus and this study aims to contribute to addressing this gap.

Results: Across 26 selected policies only 10% of strategies addressed the social determinants of health, demonstrating a lack of policy action. However, there is relatively even focus on all developmental stages, and an increased focus on youth. Equity is acknowledged across most policies with some groups receiving more attention including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The social determinants of health addressed, to some degree, include early childhood development, education, parental workplace conditions, healthy settings, and housing, those least mentioned include public transport and regulation.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates a lack of policy action on the social determinants of health within Australian child and youth health policy, and selected education wellbeing policies. Rather, the application of a siloed, and predominantly acute care approach. However, there is recognition of equity across all policies; an emphasis on housing as a determinant of health; and a link between health and education departments through education wellbeing policies, specifically addressing the issue of mental health.


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