Spatial planning and health policies: synergy or fragmentation? Evidence from Portugal through the lens of the territorial cohesion concept

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The significance of spatial planning for health and well-being is well recorded. While there has been recently an increasing body of literature in academic circles and public policy guidelines illustrating the importance of both fields working closely, evidence shows that cross-sectoral integration between spatial planning and health policies is still scarce. This article aims to develop a deeper understanding of how this integration can be considered in conceptual terms and how it is actually embraced in practice by health decision-makers. Drawing upon the concept of territorial cohesion, the new EU political objective which highlights the importance of considering the spatial dimension for public policies cross-sectoral integration, the article presents and discusses the results of a research held in Portugal aiming to understand how territory and spatial policies taken into account in health decision-making processes. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews to current and former national and regional health decision-makers were conducted for this purpose. The research also comprised the analysis of the main national and regional health policy guiding documents. Findings show that, although decision-makers and policy guiding documents value the importance of promoting a cross sectoral integration of both domains, there is still a long path ahead to integrate in a comprehensive manner the spatial dimension in health policies. The article concludes by pondering on the added value of using the conceptual framework proposed based on the decision-makers perspective and on the new institutional EU policy context.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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