Addressing individual behaviours and living conditions: Four Nordic public health policies

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Aims: To identify characteristics of the public health policies of four Nordic countries concerning how they present the causes
of ill health, the best ways to deal with these causes, and where to place responsibility; additionally, to investigate whether
there is a common Nordic policy. Methods: Analyses of recent public health programmes in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and
Sweden. Results: Focus is on either, or both, individual behaviour and living conditions as causes of ill health; the remedies are
classical liberal as well as social democratic policies. None of the programmes is consistent with either ideological strand; each
has its peculiar combination of interpretations and policies. The Danish programme is the most liberal focusing on
behaviours and individual’s choices; the Norwegian programme is the most social democratic or social liberal focusing mostly
on the social and physical environment and the politicians’ responsibility to improve the population’s health. The Swedish
and the Finnish programmes lie between those of Denmark and Norway. The Finnish and Norwegian governments stress
their responsibility for the health of the population. Conclusions: No common Nordic political approach to public
health exists. All programmes contain contradictory policies and ideological statements with differences
regarding the emphasis on individual behaviour versus choice and living conditions and political responsibility.
The policies are not entirely predictable from the political stance of the government; national differences seem to
play a role.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Volume39
Issue number 6 Suppl.
Pages (from-to)6-10
Number of pages5
ISSN1403-4948
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ID: 33233138