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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Health and sustainability

Bente Kjӕrgård, Birgit Land, Kirsten Bransholm Pedersen
Health Promotion International 2014, 29 (3): 558-68
23300191
In the present article, we explore how sustainable development strategies and health promotion strategies can be bridged. The concept of the 'duality of structure' is taken as our starting point for understanding the linkages between health promotion and sustainable development, and for uncovering the structural properties or conditions which either enable or constrain sustainable public health initiatives. We argue that strategies towards health promotion are not sufficiently integrated with strategies for sustainable development, and thus political strategies aimed at solving health problems or sustainability problems may cause new, undesired and unforeseen environmental or health problems. First, we explore how the relation between health and sustainability is articulated in international policy documents. Next, we develop a model for understanding the relation between health promotion and sustainability. Third, we use examples from agriculture and food production to illustrate that health and sustainability are mutually enabling and constraining. We conclude that while the renewed focus on food security and food inequalities has brought the health and sustainability dimensions of the food system onto the political agenda, the conceptualization of duality between health and sustainability could be a new platform for a critical and theoretical stance towards the market-oriented food system strategy. Thinking along the lines of duality means that the integration of health promotion strategies and sustainable development strategies cannot be based on an approach to integration in which either health or sustainability is given precedence over the other. From a duality perspective, integration means conceiving sustainability from a health perspective and health from a sustainability perspective.

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