Infrastructural requirements for local implementation of safety policies: the discordance between top-down and bottom-up systems of action
Section of Social Medicine and Public Health, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, Linköping University, SE-581 83 Linköping, Sweden
BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:45 doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-45Published: 9 March 2009
Safety promotion is planned and practised not only by public health organizations, but also by other welfare state agencies, private companies and non-governmental organizations. The term 'infrastructure' originally denoted the underlying resources needed for warfare, e.g. roads, industries, and an industrial workforce. Today, 'infrastructure' refers to the physical elements, organizations and people needed to run projects in different societal arenas.
The aim of this study was to examine associations between infrastructure and local implementation of safety policies in injury prevention and safety promotion programs.
Qualitative data on municipalities in Sweden designated as Safe Communities were collected from focus group interviews with municipal politicians and administrators, as well as from policy documents, and materials published on the Internet. Actor network theory was used to identify weaknesses in the present infrastructure and determine strategies that can be used to resolve these.
The weakness identification analysis revealed that the factual infrastructure available for effectuating national strategies varied between safety areas and approaches, basically reflecting differences between bureaucratic and network-based organizational models. At the local level, a contradiction between safety promotion and the existence of quasi-markets for local public service providers was found to predispose for a poor local infrastructure diminishing the interest in integrated inter-agency activities. The weakness resolution analysis showed that development of an adequate infrastructure for safety promotion would require adjustment of the legal framework regulating injury data exchange, and would also require rational financial models for multi-party investments in local infrastructures.
We found that the "silo" structure of government organization and assignment of resources was a barrier to collaborative action for safety at a community level. It may therefore be overly optimistic to take for granted that different approaches to injury control, such as injury prevention and safety promotion, can share infrastructure. Similarly, it may be unrealistic to presuppose that safety promotion can reach its potential in terms of injury rate reductions unless the critical infrastructure for this is in place. Such an alignment of the infrastructure to organizational processes requires more than financial investments.