Mainstreaming Health
into Public Policies

Date: 28-30 January 2009

Venue : Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand



Health has become a very high priority global development agenda in the last decade judging from the tremendous increase in health related ODA, global and national political attention, global health partners, and active public involvement. These investments, however, focus mainly on tackling the three major infectious diseases, i.e. HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and less on the health systems capacity building and other MDGs such as maternal and child mortality, nutrition, and environmental health.

The Constitution establishing the World Health Organization defines health as “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of diseases and infirmity”. The Executive Board of WHO in 1996 added ‘spiritual’ well-being to the definition, although not yet globally accepted. It has been accepted with ample evidences that health is a multi-sectoral and multidimensional social issue. All public policies thus have both positive and negative implications on well-being, or health. Improving health thus necessitates the involvement and the advocacy for ‘health’ lens in all public sector policies. Healthy public policy is thus an explicit concern for health promotion and development. The main intention of healthy public policy is to create a supportive environment to enable people to lead healthy lives, as stated in the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion that:

“Health promotion goes beyond health care. It puts health on the agenda of policy makers in all sectors and at all levels, directing them to be aware of the health consequences of their decisions and to accept their responsibilities for health...

“Joint action contributes to ensuring safer and healthier goods and services,healthier public services, and cleaner, more enjoyable environments.”

In pursuit of healthy public policies, all parties concerned including international development partners, lending agencies, donors, national and sub-national governments, private corporate sectors involved in foreign policies, agriculture and food,trade, education, industry, energy, finance and investment, science and technology, transport and communications, and finally security, need to take into account health as an essential concern when formulating their policy.

There were global firm commitments towards healthy public policies, notably in the 1986 Ottawa Charter and confirmed now and again in subsequent international conferences on Health Promotion [Adelaide, Australia (1988), Sundsvall, Sweden (1991), Jakarta, Indonesia (1997), Mexico City, Mexico (2000) and Bangkok, Thailand (2005)]. Nevertheless, slow progresses in the concrete achievement of healthy public policy were observed. Concrete examples are not often described. The movement on healthy public policy was still confined in the health sector, whereas significant concerns among non-health sector policies providing an enabling environment to health of the population have rarely been envisaged.

It is therefore an opportune time to revisit and advocate the global movement and awareness on mobilizing commitments from leaders in all sectors to apply, as a rule of good practice a ‘health’ lens in formulating their policies. It would be highly beneficial that the global political leaders commit to ‘mainstreaming health into all public policies at all levels’.

The Prince Mahidol Award Conference is an annual international conference hosted by the Royal Thai Government, the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation, and relevant International Organizations, Foundations and Civil Society Organizations. The Conference serves as an international forum for sharing evidences for health related policies and strengthens social commitments for health development. This conference is closely linked to the annual Prince Mahidol Award for public health and medicine, one of the most prestigious international health awards. It has taken the lead to organize the 2009 conference together with Intergovernmental Organizations including the UN, foundations, bilateral development partners, and global civil society organizations.




Download: Opening Session VDO 2009


  1. Review the evidence and examine concrete examples of the health impacts that stem from public policies in non-health sectors:
    1.1. To review evidence on the positive  and negative impacts of various public  policies, especially in non-health sectors,  on the health of the population. The  topics of discussion will be both  issue-based as well as sector-based by  selecting the issues/sectors that have  health implications.
    i. To identify and share the experiences  on various mechanisms and issues  related to EIA, HIA, institutional capacity  to enforce, monitor and lessons learned
    ii. To identify what structures and  mechanisms work best to encourage  the formulation and implementation of  healthy public policy
    iii. To examine critically case studies  related to healthy public policy
    iv. To review various practices and  experiences of donors and lenders in  non-health sectors which impact health  of the population
    v. To identify how to improve the  international rule-making process
  2. To discuss and agree on tangible policy recommendations on establishing, strengthening, and sustaining mechanisms in mainstreaming health into all public policies at all levels.
  • International Organizing Committee


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