Aims: To explore if the term equity was applied and how measures for addressing social inequalities in health and reducing inequity were communicated in selected Nordic documents concerning public health. Methods: Documents from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden were collected and analysed by Nordic authors. Data included material from websites of ministries and authorities responsible for public health issues, with primary focus on steering documents, action programmes, and reports from 2001 until spring 2013. Results: Most strategies applied in Danish, Finnish, and Swedish documents focused on the population in general but paid special attention to vulnerable groups. The latest Danish and Finnish documents communicate a clearer commitment to address social inequalities in health. They emphasise the social gradient and the need to address the social determinants in order to improve the position of disadvantaged groups. Norwegian authorities have paid increasing attention to inequity/social inequalities in health and initiated a new law in 2012 which aims to address the social gradient in a more clear way than seen elsewhere in the Nordic countries. Conclusions: In the Nordic countries, redistribution by means of universal welfare policies is historically viewed as a vital mechanism to improve the situation of vulnerable groups and level the social gradient. To establish the concept of equity as a strong concern and a core value within health promotion, it is important to be aware how policies can contribute to enable reduction of social health differences.
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 2014, Vol 42, Issue 3, p. 235-241