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Health Policy. 2007 Mar;80(3):413-21. Epub 2006 Jun 5.

The chance of Sweden's public health targets making a difference.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Social Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



There is a trend in health policy towards more focus on determinants and societal interventions and less on individuals. The Swedish public health targets are in line with this trend. The value of public health targets lies in their ability to function as a tool in governing with targets. This paper examines the possibility of the Swedish targets functioning as such a tool.


Document analyses were performed to examine three prerequisites of governing with targets: (1) the influence of the administration in the target setting process, (2) the explicitness of targets and (3) the follow-up system. The material consisted of the documents from the committee drafting the targets, the written opinions on the drafts, and the governmental bill with the adopted public health targets.


The administration influenced the target setting process. Further, the government invests in a follow-up system that makes indicators on health determinants visible. However, although there existed explicit targets earlier in the process, the final targets in the bill are not explicit enough.


The Swedish public health targets are not explicit enough to function in governing with targets. The reasons for this were political rather than technical. This suggests that policy makers focusing health determinants should not put time and resources in technical target formulating. Instead they could make indicators visible, thereby drawing attention to trends that are political by nature.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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