To what extent do policies in Australia consider the social determinants of health and health equity?


Event details


Date & time

Tuesday 17 April 2018


Seminar Room 1.04, Coombs Ext # 8 Fellows Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Fran Baum


School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet)

This presentation will draw on findings from two ARC Discovery projects which have examined the extent to which Australian public policies incorporate consideration of the social determinants of health and health equity (SDH/HE). The first project examined policies within the health sector in each Australian jurisdiction.

We gathered and analysed 266 policy documents, being all of the published, strategic health policies of the national Australian government and eight State/ Territory governments, current at the time of sampling in late 2012-early 2013.

This study found that while there was considerable rhetoric about SDH/HE in vision statements and aspirations, the strategies proposed did not SDH/HE and emphasised individual and behaviour strategies. Action on SDH/HE require intersectoral action.

The paper will also present analysis on intersectoral action, This analysis found that strategies for intersectoral action were common in Australian health policy, but predominantly concerned with extending access to individualized medical or behavioural interventions to client groups in other policy sectors.

Where intersectoral strategies did propose action on SDH/HE (other than access to health-care), they were mostly limited to addressing proximal factors, rather than policy settings affecting the distribution of socioeconomic resources.

There was little evidence of engagement between the health sector and those policy sectors most able to influence systemic socioeconomic inequalities in Australia. We found that National policies on Aboriginal health did most to address SDH/HE systemically.

The paper will also describe our current ARC study which examining the social determinants of health content of public policies in the Justice, Urban Planning, Energy and Environment sectors.

About the speaker

Fran Baum is Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Foundation Director of the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia and Honorary Professor at RegNET, ANU. She was named in the Queen’s Birthday 2016 Honours List as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to higher education as an academic and public health researcher, as an advocate for improved access to community health care, and to professional organisations”.

She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and of the Australian Health Promotion Association. She is a past National President and Life Member of the Public Health Association of Australia. She is a member and past Chair of the Global Steering Council of the People’s Health Movement – a global network of health activist (www. also served as a Commissioner on the World Health Organisation’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health from 2005-08.

Fran Baum holds grants from the National Health & Medical Research Council and the Australia Research Council which are considering a wide range of aspects of health inequities and social determinants of health. These grants include an NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence on Policies for Health Equity of which she is one of the two co-Directors. Her book, The New Public Health (4th ed. published January 2016 Oxford University Press), is widely cited and used in many public health courses.

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet