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Abstract

Background: Policy decisions made within all sectors have the potential to influence population health and equity. Recognition of this provides impetus for the health sector to engage with other sectors to facilitate the development of policies that recognise, and aim to improve, population outcomes. This paper compares the approaches implemented to facilitate such engagement in two Australian jurisdictions. These are Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in New South Wales (NSW) and Health in All Policies (HiAP) in South Australia (SA). Methods: The comparisons presented in this paper emerged through collaborative activities between stakeholders in both jurisdictions, including critical reflection on HIA and HiAP practice, joint participation in a workshop, and the preparation of a discussion paper written to inform a conference plenary session. The plenary provided an opportunity for the incorporation of additional insights from policy practitioners and academics. Results: Comparison of the approaches indicates that their overall intent is similar. Differences exist, however, in the underpinning principles, technical processes and tactical strategies applied. These differences appear to stem mainly from the organisational positioning of the work in each state and the extent to which each approach is linked to government systems. Conclusions: The alignment of the HiAP approach with the systems of the SA Government increases the likelihood of influence within the policy cycle. However, the political priorities and sensitivities of the SA Government limit the scope of HiAP work. The implementation of the HIA approach from outside government in NSW means greater freedom to collaborate with a range of partners and to assess policy issues in any area, regardless of government priorities. However, the comparative distance of HIA from NSW Government systems may reduce the potential for impact on government policy. The diversity in the technical and tactical strategies that are applied within each approach provides insight into how the approaches have been tailored to suit the particular contexts in which they have been implemented.

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