Under left wing governments, health policies were developed as opposed to policies primarily focused on prevention of disease; there was also an increase in local autonomy in implementation of national health policy and a focus on equity in health. In all these change processes, emphasis was given to how public health could be improved through the governing system from national to local implementation and by involvement of an increasing number of sectors. During the periods when right wing governments were in power, more emphasis was given to individual responsibility for health and health policy declined in political importance. This pendulum swing in the politicalization of health policies is analysed through White Papers and action plans. It traces how Norwegian governments have acted upon the international health promotion movement initiated at the Alma Ata conference and through the Ottawa Health Promotion Charter. Similar pendulum swings are also found in other Western countries.