Policies to tackle health inequalities in Norway: from laggard to pioneer?

Int J Health Serv. 2009;39(3):509-23. doi: 10.2190/HS.39.3.e.


This study addresses recent public health policies in Norway, asking how policies on health inequalities have developed over the past 20 years. The authors focus on how the problem has been defined, what goals have been set, and what means have been put forward to achieve them. The data consist of official documents and interviews of key actors in research and the health bureaucracy. The results indicate that the theme of health inequalities has developed from a non-topic to a high-priority topic in Norway's public health policy. This change has been accompanied by formulation of clear goals and an overarching and long-term strategy, including concrete means to reduce health inequalities. Over the past five years, the problem definition has changed from one of individualization with a focus on health behaviors to a structural understanding that emphasizes the problem of the gradient and social determinants of health. Norway is on the move from a state of political indifference toward action in developing comprehensive, coordinating policy.

MeSH terms

  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Priorities
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Norway
  • Politics
  • Public Health Administration / methods*
  • Sociology, Medical