Abstract There have been many approaches by the health sector to developing healthy communities based on local government areas in Australia in the past decade. Each has struggled with the need to establish realistic goals and to find ways of working more effectively with local government. This paper outlines four of these approaches--Healthy Cities, the Healthy Localities project, municipal health plans, and programs to address specific health problems or issues. Although the picture is one of huge diversity in the ways in
which the issue is defined and action taken, a number of dimensions to a healthy community are emerging. However, if we are to be able to monitor change within and between the health of communities over time, indicators need to be developed and goals set. This will require a shift away from defining goals and targets in terms of populations (people), towards goals based on changes in organisations and systems. Engaging local government in this process will be vital and will require the health sector to develop a better understanding of the ways in which local government defines its role in creating healthy communities. It will also involve learning from local government the strategies that they have found most effective in dealing with complex problems that require action at many levels.