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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Evidence, Policy and Regulation - The Importance of Context: evidence, values and assumptions in public health policy

2nd December 2015, 14:00 to 17:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Professor Linda McKie; Professor Ted Schrecker; Professor Nancy Cartwright; Professor Ian Greener

In Stockton-on-Tees, the difference in male life expectancy at birth between the most and least deprived areas is 16 years – the highest in England. This reflects a larger pattern in which health inequalities are increasing in parallel with the rise of economic inequality, and despite stated policy commitments to reducing them.

Review of current policies suggests that the application and interpretation of research evidence in public health policy relies on questionable assumptions about a high degree of choice and control over lifestyle, income, and quotidian living/working environment. Rich and poor live in different ‘epidemiological worlds’, and some have far more control over those worlds than others.

Against this background, what forms of evidence, disciplinary perspectives and research methodologies are most relevant for the design of policies to reduce health inequalities?

The core activity in this programme will be a one-day interactive workshop in December, 2015 on Evidence, Values and Assumptions in Public Health Policy. Key contributors will be Professor Ian Greener on the perils of ‘rational choice’ as an assumption in public health policy; Professor Nancy Cartwright on putting all the evidence to use in health policy; and Professors Ted Schrecker and Linda McKie on choices about how much evidence of health impact is enough to act on socioeconomic inequalities that are key determinants of health inequalities (the standard of proof question).

Based on responses to a widely circulated call for expressions of interest, up to 30 participants drawn from the university and the North-East community will be identified, and background materials distributed in advance of the workshop. Post-workshop, key messages will be synthesised; a proposed agenda for future activities circulate (including funded activities); and a short briefing paper for circulation across the university and outside will be developed; as well as a journal article.

This activity will operate in parallel with an ESRC-funded series of seminars and conferences on revitalising the health equity agenda.

Contact Linda McKie for more information and to register for this workshop.

Contact for more information about this event.