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Soc Sci Med. 2006 Jul;63(1):179-88. Epub 2006 Feb 8.

From rhetoric to reality: barriers faced by Health For All initiatives.

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West Hull Primary Care Trust, Specialist Health Promotion Service, Victoria House, Park Street, Hull HU2 8TD, UK.


The last two decades have witnessed an upsurge in the development and implementation of 'Health For All-type' initiatives in many parts of the world. However, despite the popularity of the approach, barriers and constraints to the fulfillment of their remit still persist, making it difficult for them to achieve the potential originally envisaged. Drawing upon considerable empirical work while evaluating the European Healthy City projects and English Health Action Zones, this paper explores the differences between barriers and constraints and then focuses on barriers as they manifest themselves in England. It distinguishes between cultural barriers, stemming from different philosophical, organisational, and professional/experiential cultures, and political barriers, stemming from both party political and realpolitik concerns. It discusses how these barriers often operate together, compounding their individual impacts, with detrimental effects for Health For All initiatives. Consequently, while the prevailing rhetoric appears to promote an alternative, and more appropriate, vision of how health can be maintained and enhanced, these barriers effectively function to sustain the hegemony of the status quo which was, and is, based on a different and outdated vision. We argue that acknowledging the continuous persistence of these barriers is an essential first step towards turning the prevailing health-related rhetoric into reality.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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