Socioeconomic inequalities in health have moved up the policy agenda of older industrial societies. The paper turns the spotlight on this development by exploring how the goal has been represented in England's national policy documents. Rather than one approach, there appears to be a range of understandings of what it means to tackle health inequalities. These understandings can be placed on a continuum, which runs from improving the health of poor groups, through closing the health gaps between those in the poorest circumstances and better-off groups, to addressing the association between socioeconomic position and health across the population. The paper points to common ground between the three approaches to tackling health inequalities, but also to important differences in the moral arguments and causal models on which they rest, and therefore in their policy goals and anticipated policy impacts.
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