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Promoting social change: The experience of health action zones in England

Judge, Ken; Barnes, Marian; Judge, J; Bauld, Linda; Barnes, K; Benzeval, Michaela; MacKenzie, Mhairi; Sullivan, Helen


Ken Judge

Marian Barnes

J Judge

Linda Bauld

K Barnes

Michaela Benzeval

Mhairi MacKenzie

Helen Sullivan


When New Labour came to power in the UK in 1997 it brought with it a strong commitment to reducing inequality and social exclusion. One strand of its strategy involved a focus on area-based initiatives to reduce the effects of persistent disadvantage. Health Action Zones (HAZs) were the first example of this type of intervention, and their focus on community-based initiatives to tackle the wider social determinants of health inequalities excited great interest both nationally and internationally. This article draws on findings from the national evaluation of the initiative. It provides an overview of the HAZ experience, and explores why many of the great expectations associated with HAZs at their launch failed to materialise. It suggests that, despite their relatively limited impact, it is best to consider that they made a good start in difficult circumstances rather than that they failed. As a result there are some important lessons to be learned about the role of complex community-based interventions in tackling seemingly intractable social problems for policy-makers, practitioners and evaluators. © 2005 Cambridge University Press.


Barnes, M., Judge, K., Bauld, L., Judge, J., Barnes, K., Benzeval, M., …Sullivan, H. (2005). Promoting social change: The experience of health action zones in England. Journal of Social Policy, 34(3), 427-445.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Jul 27, 2005
Deposit Date Jul 15, 2010
Journal Journal of Social Policy
Print ISSN 0047-2794
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 34
Issue 3
Pages 427-445
Keywords social change, health action zones, England
Public URL
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