The pursuit of political will: politicians' motivation and health promotion

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The health promotion literature points out a significant gap between declared health promotion policy and practice. The common assumption is that one of the main obstacles to progress is “political will” and the intersectoral action necessary to create healthy environments. The concept of political will is most frequently invoked to explain a lack of action usually rooted in politicians' lack of personal courage or good sense. While stressing the fact that health and its promotion are profoundly political, we claim that the lack of political will is usually not because politicians have shown insufficient personal courage or good sense. Rather, we suggest that one of the reasons for the gap between the need for health promotion policies and political will derives from politicians' lack of attraction to several aspects associated with this policy area. In many cases, politicians are not attracted to the issue of health promotion because of the unique structural conditions usually associated with this policy domain. Using tools related to public policy theory, we suggest a conceptual framework that explains what those conditions are and answers the question of why politicians seem to lack the political will to undertake the design of health promotion policies. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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