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Introduction: Reduction of social inequalities in health has been one of the main political pillars of Regional Health Agencies in France since their creation in 2009. This paper presents a contextual analysis of the effects on social inequalities in health of a hospital-based health promotion and disease prevention programme in terms of overall health policy and scope.
Methods: Qualitative analysis was used to describe the impact on social inequalities in health according to the classification proposed by Diderichsen et al. Carey’s framework was used to apply proportionate universalism in order to analyse its action on these inequalities, adopting a contextualised and holistic approach with regard to regional and national public policy. The results showed that the intervention focused on targeted actions, but may have broader applications. The intervention strategy shifts between closing the inequality gap and levelling up the social gradient. However, analysis of this type of intervention using the proportionate universalism framework may lead to a revised view of the effects of the intervention on social inequalities in health.
Results: Implementing health-equity focused interventions remains a challenge for each institution, including Regional Health Agencies. However, research on hospital-based preventive interventions highlights contrasting results in terms of social gradient, depending on whether the intervention is considered in isolation or in its broader context.
Discussion: This article advocates a contextualised approach to analysing local interventions and their effects on social inequalities in health.


  • social inequalities in health
  • prevention
  • proportionate universalism
  • health gradient
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