The Ottawa Charter has been remarkably influential in guiding the development of the goals and concepts of health promotion, and in shaping global public health practice in the past 20 years. However, of the five action areas identified in the Ottawa Charter, it appears that there has been little systematic attention to the challenge of re-orienting health services, and less than optimal progress in practice. The purposes of re-orienting health services as proposed in the Ottawa Charter were to achieve a better balance in investment between prevention and treatment, and to include a focus on population health outcomes alongside the focus on individual health outcomes. However, there is little evidence that a re-orientation of health services in these terms has occurred systematically anywhere in the world. This is in spite of the fact that direct evidence of the need to re-orient health services and of the potential benefits of doing so has grown substantially since 1986. Patient education, preventive care (screening, immunisation), and organisational and environmental changes by health organisations have all been found to have positive health and environmental outcomes. However, evidence of effectiveness has not been sufficient, on its own, to sway community preferences and political decisions. The lack of progress points to the need for significant re-thinking of the approaches we have adopted to date. The paper proposes a number of ways forward. These include working effectively in partnership with the communities we want to serve to mobilise support for change, and to reinforce this by working more effectively at influencing broader public opinion through the media. The active engagement of clinical health professionals is also identified as crucial to achieving sustainable change. Finally we recognize that by working in partnership with like-minded advocacy organizations, the IUHPE could put its significant knowledge and experience to work in leading action to transform health care systems to make a major contribution to the improvement of public health.