The notion of the action zone has emerged as a key feature of New Labour’s approach to social policy. There is some debate about whether Labour’s area-based policies reflect the Old Left, the New Right or the ‘third way’. This paper critically examines these issues for Health Action Zones (HAZs). First, it outlines the development of HAZs and their main features. It then examines the themes that may have underpinned the HAZ strategy. Finally it examines critiques of HAZs in the light of wider debates about area-based strategies. It is concluded that HAZs fit well with some of New Labour’s key themes, and may have some characteristics of a third way in that they incorporate features of both the ‘Old Left’ of the Black Report and the New Right of competitive, bidding exercises. Moreover, they have addressed some of the main criticisms of earlier area-based policies, arguably being based on place rather than people poverty. However, some of the issues regarding their designation illustrate unresolved problems.