Norwegian policies to reduce social inequalities in health: Developments from 1987 to 2021
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2022, 50 (7), 882-886. 10.1177/14034948221129685
Reducing social inequalities in health has been an important aim in the development of the Nordic welfare states. This Commentary presents the development of Norwegian policies in this area from 1987 to 2021. Social inequalities entered the political agenda in Norway in the 1980s, but were mostly defined as a problem for selected marginalised groups. The World Health Organization project led by Michael Marmot was an inspiration for Norwegian policy-makers and the concept of the social gradient was introduced. From 2005, levelling the social gradient in health became a central strategy in Norwegian policy-making and culminated in the Public Health Act 2012. This Act focuses on the structural determinants of health and the municipalities have a central role in its implementation. However, the municipalities are mostly responsible for services providing downstream measures and have little control over social determinants such as tax or labour market policies. The Public Health Act is important because it institutionalises social inequalities as a policy field within public health. Not only the municipalities, but all administrative levels have to contribute to meet the aim of reducing the social gradient.