The study aimed to compare the experiences with the organization of universal public healthcare systems in relation to health promotion in primary care units in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina State, Brazil, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This was a descriptive exploratory study with a qualitative approach in primary care units. Data were collected with semi-structured interviews containing questions on health promotion practices, with 25 health professionals in Florianópolis and 10 in Toronto. The data were discussed using thematic analysis, identifying the practices, difficulties, and facilities in health promotion. In the two cities, 60% of health professionals and health administrators had not received any specific knowledge on health promotion during their training. As for health promotion skills, health professionals in Toronto identified them with autonomy and social determinants, while in Florianópolis they were related to health education and community participation. In both cities, health promotion practices are targeted to individual and collective activities. The motivation to act comes from interdisciplinarity and the demands raised by the population. Health promotion is a relevant form of care and stimulus for individual and community autonomy, in light of social determinants. Such practices aim at comprehensive health for the community, but there are limits in the teams that still conduct disease-centered activities. Resources are limited, requiring inter-sector actions to improve quality of life. Healthcare centers on the hegemonic model, and progress is needed to achieve a positive approach to health and social determinants.
Health Promotion; Social Determinants of Health; Primary Health Care