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Health Promot Int. 2019 Apr 1;34(2):215-226. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dax073.

Assuming policy responsibility for health equity: local public health action in Ontario, Canada.

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Graduate Program in Health Policy and Equity, York University, Toronto, Canada.


In Canada's liberal welfare state the public is given little exposure by governmental authorities to the importance of promoting health equity through public policy action on the social determinants of health (SDoH). Not surprisingly, Canada lags in implementing health equity-enhancing public policy. In Ontario, Canada's most populous province, a local public health unit (PHU) took on the task of promoting health equity by developing the video animation Let's Start a Conversation about Health and Not Talk about Health Care at All. In the wake of this work, an additional 17 local PHUs (of 36) adapted it for local use. By placing these activities within Nutbeam's and de Leeuw's concepts of critical health literacy as an essential component of health promotion, we examine how these PHUs came to adopt the video, their intended uses, and supports and barriers encountered. These efforts by local PHUs to promote health equity through action on the SDoH have implications for those in jurisdictions where State attention to these issues is lacking.


health equity; public education; social determinants of health


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