Health promotion

Adelaide Recommendations on Healthy Public Policy

Second International Conference on Health Promotion, Adelaide, South Australia, 5-9 April 1988

Healthy Public Policy

Healthy public policy is characterized by an explicit concern for health and equity in all areas of policy and by an accountability for health impact. The main aim of health public policy is to create a supportive environment to enable people to lead healthy lives. Such a policy makes health choices possible or easier for citizens. It makes social and physical environments health-enhancing. In the pursuit of healthy public policy, government sectors concerned with agriculture, trade, education, industry, and communications need to take into account health as an essential factor when formulating policy. These sectors should be accountable for the health consequences of their policy decisions. They should pay as much attention to health as to economic considerations.

The value of health

Health is both a fundamental human right and a sound social investment. Governments need to invest resources in healthy public policy and health promotion in order to raise the health status of all their citizens. A basic principle of social justice is to ensure that people have access to the essentials for a healthy and satisfying life. At the same time, this raises overall societal productivity in both social and economic terms. Healthy public policy in the short term will lead to long-term economic benefits as shown by the case studies presented a this Conference. New efforts must be made to link economic, social, and health policies into integrated action.

Equity, access and development

Inequalities in health are rooted in inequities in society. Closing the health gap between socially and educationally disadvantaged people and more advantaged people requires a policy that will improve access to health-enhancing goods and services, and create supportive environments. Such a policy would assign high priority to underprivileged and vulnerable groups. Furthermore, a healthy public policy recognizes the unique culture of indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, and immigrants. Equal access to health services, particularly community health care, is a vital aspect of equity in health.

New inequalities in health may follow rapid structural change caused by emerging technologies. The first target of the European Region of the World Health Organization, in moving towards Health for All is that:

"by the year 2000 the actual differences in health status between countries and between groups within countries should be reduced by at least 25% by improving the level of health of disadvantaged nations and groups."

In view of the large health gaps between countries, which this Conference has examined, the developed countries have an obligation to ensure that their own policies have a positive health impact on developing nations. The Conference recommends that all countries develop healthy public policies that explicitly address this issue.