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Public health policy and walking in England - analysis of the 2008 'policy window'.

Milton, K and Grix, Jonathan (2015) Public health policy and walking in England - analysis of the 2008 'policy window'. BMC public health, 15. pp. 1-9. ISSN 1471-2458

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Abstract

Although the government in England has a long-standing interest in walking promotion, this has not been accompanied by a coherent strategic plan or investment to support physical activity behaviour change. However, in 2008 the government announced its intention to invest £7 million into walking promotion. This article utilises Kingdon's Multiple Streams framework as an organising principle through which to interrogate the reasons behind the increased emphasis on walking promotion as part of the public health policy agenda in England.The research adopted a case study design. Data were obtained through document analysis of relevant policies and semi-structured interviews with experts in the walking sector, including both government and non-government representatives.Kingdon's Multiple Streams theory proposes that at certain points in time, 'policy windows' are created through the convergence of a problem, an appropriate solution, and a receptive political environment, and this policy window presents an opportunity for major policy change. The findings of this research suggest that the success of London in securing the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was the primary trigger in the creation of a policy window for walking promotion in recent years.Despite previous interest in walking promotion from the health and transport sectors, it was the recent alignment with the sports agenda that led to increased political commitment. This raises concerns that the research evidence on the health benefits of physical activity and rising levels of inactivity in England, are insufficient to secure government support and investment, and that multi-sector lobbying and joined-up political action may be critical in advancing this agenda.

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