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A glossary of theories for understanding power and policy for health equity
  1. Patrick Harris1,
  2. Fran Baum2,
  3. Sharon Friel3,
  4. Tamara Mackean4,
  5. Ashley Schram2,
  6. Bel Townsend2
  1. 1Centre for Health Equity Training, Research & Evaluation (CHETRE), Ingham Institute, Liverpool Hospital, Liverpool, BC, NSW, Australia
  2. 2Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
  3. 3REGNET, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  4. 4Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
  1. Correspondence to CHETRE, Ingham Institute, Liverpool Hospital, Locked Bag 7103, Liverpool, BC NSW 1871; patrick.harris{at}


Progressing public policies that improve health equity requires understanding and addressing the creation, use and distribution of power. This glossary provides an overview of some of the most relevant conceptualisations of the dynamics of power in policy with implications for health equity. The aim is to provide an accessible overview of the different theories and perspectives behind power for public health focused policy researchers and advocates. The Glossary demonstrates how the broad literature on power in policy deepens understanding of the institutional dynamics that creates and maintains health inequities.

  • power
  • policy
  • health
  • equity
  • glossary
  • theory

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  • Correction notice This article has been correted since it first published. The affiliation of Patrick Harris has been corrected and the box ‘Expressions of power’ added.

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the planning, design and writing of this article. PH conceived, led and oversaw the article; FB and SF commented on the whole article, TM wrote the Indigenous section and commented on the whole article, AS led the feminist section and commented on the whole article, BT wrote the main theorists section and commented on the whole article.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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