Intersectoral action between public agencies across policy sectors, and between levels of government, is seen as essential for effective action by governments to address social determinants of health (SDH) and to reduce health inequities. The health sector has been identified as having a crucial stewardship role, to engage other policy sectors in action to address the impacts of their policies on health. This article reports on research to investigate intersectoral action on SDH and health inequities in Australian health policy. We gathered and individually 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. Our analysis showed 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 (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.
- Health policy
- inequalities in health
- intersectoral partnerships
- social determinants of health