The past 25 years have seen enormous shifts in the environmental, political, economic and social landscapes that condition people's abilities to be healthy. Climate change is now a reality. China, India, Brazil and other ‘developing’ countries are emerging as new axes of political and economic power. Global capitalism has become increasingly predatory and crisis ridden, a result of unregulated and irresponsible greed of unimaginable scale. The elite response has been the increased erosion of the health and other social protection policies of redistribution that characterized the first-world run-up to the Ottawa Charter. These new realities challenge health promoters in ways unforeseen a quarter century ago. It is imperative that local determinants of health, to which health promoters give their attention, be traced to broader, even global levels of determinants. Support for groups acting at these levels should become a fundamental practice tenet. So, too, should advocacy for the social state, in which progressive taxation and hefty social investment blunt the health inequalities created by unfettered markets. As environmental and economic insecurities and inequalities increase in many of the world's countries, so does the risk of xenophobia and conflict. The roots of racism are complex; but weeding them out becomes another health promotion practice of the new millennium. There are some hopeful signs of health promoting political change, much of it emanating now from countries in the global South; but the threat of a return to health behaviourism in the face of the new global pandemic of chronic disease is real and must be confronted.