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National public health policy in a local context: implementation in two Swedish municipalities
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3440-296X
University of Bergen, Norway.
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3787-1040
2010 (English)In: How to transfer public health research into practice: Challenges in implementation research, 2010Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Background: In 2003 the Swedish parliament adopted a wide-ranging national objective for public health, focusing specifically on health determinants. It is envisaged that the overall objective will be achieved through the efforts of different bodies, including agencies, county councils and municipalities. Responsibility for implementation is located at regional and local level, without any specified guidelines or, for example, economic incentives for how the work should be performed.

This study’s intention is, from a bottom-up perspective, to investigate public-health policy in two municipalities, and to see whether municipal policies can be related to the national objective.  The bottom-up perspective focuses on the actors, the people responsible for implementation, and on the process as seen from their own perspective. The implementers play a key role, as mediators of empirical knowledge and bases for decisions to the national decision-makers. Thus, in the implementation of national policy at local level, decision-makers are dependent on the decisions made and priorities set by the municipalities in their own local settings, as these are related to competing or similar laws, policies, stakeholders and needs. Local and committed actors have an important function in the implementation process. Serious commitment and occupying a position of power are important aspects of success, but so too is professional expertise. At the same time, local actors’ opportunities to act and implement national targets within their own organization is restricted by surrounding structures, e.g. the party-political (partisan) composition of the municipality and its administrative organization, and also the presence or not of formal or informal support networks.

Methods: Scrutiny of documents and interviews provided a foundation for a qualitative case study.

Results: The results reveal a loose fit between policy implementation and the national public health policy. The local level does not regard the national objective as implementable; instead, it has, to varying degrees, chosen to redefine its goals according to municipal needs and conditions. A success-promoting factor in the two municipalities was the presence of committed and knowledgeable actors/implementers. Also, the municipality with a more centrally controlled and stable party-political leadership succeeded better in implementing structural and intersectoral community-wide policies for coordinated local public-health promotion.

Discussion /Conclusions: Problems that accompany major, ambitious and non-specific goals, like those in the Swedish public health policy, are that they risk being integrated into a solely symbolic structure, entailing formal adoption but with only a superficial finish.  Below the surface, the informal, original organization remains in the administrations, which hinders implementation.

Swedish municipal self-governance, with its enhanced scope for local action, offers an opportunity for communities to shape their own politics and policies. But, at the same time, this acts as a barrier to opportunities for decision-makers at national-government level to influence and guide the municipalities towards the national objective of more organized and structured health promotion focusing on the determinants of healthInc reased knowledge of the policy, and of its specific focus on health determinants, is needed to increase understanding/motivation to implement the national policy locally.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010.
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-10520OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-10520DiVA: diva2:359085
Conference
Implementation Research Symposium 2010, Stockholm, Nov 15-16, 2010.
Available from: 2010-10-26 Created: 2010-10-26 Last updated: 2017-04-06Bibliographically approved

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