Objectives: Although 'integrated' public health policies are assumed to be the ideal way to optimize public health, it remains hard to determine how far removed we are from this ideal, since clear operational criteria and defining characteristics are lacking.
Methods: A literature review identified gaps in previous operationalizations of integrated public health policies. We searched for an approach that could fill these gaps.
Results: We propose the following defining characteristics of an integrated policy: (1) the combination of policies includes an appropriate mix of interventions that optimizes the functioning of the behavioral system, thus ensuring that motivation, capability and opportunity interact in such a way that they promote the preferred (health-promoting) behavior of the target population, and (2) the policies are implemented by the relevant policy sectors from different policy domains.
Conclusion: Our criteria should offer added value since they describe pathways in the process towards formulating integrated policy. The aim of introducing our operationalization is to assist policy makers and researchers in identifying truly integrated cases. The Behavior Change Wheel proved to be a useful framework to develop operational criteria to assess the current state of integrated public health policies in practice.
Keywords: Health in all policies; Healthy public policy; Integrated approach; Integrated public health policies; Intersectoral collaboration; Whole-of-government approach.
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