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Durham University

Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Previous Events

List of months

Tuesday 28 January 2014

OPH Workshop - An Introduction to a realist approach run by Dr Geoff Wong

11:00am to 4:00pm, Burdon House, St Hild & Bede, Durham, DH1 1TA, Dr Geoff Wong

This is an Optimising Population Health themed Workshop and open to Wolfson Fellows and Wolfson Postgraduate Associates.

Realist review and evaluation are relatively new research approaches for making sense of complex interventions. This workshop will explain the need for a realist approach and provide hands on practice in applying a realist approach to make sense of complex interventions. 

Biography—Dr Geoff Wong

Dr Geoff Wong is a Senior Lecturer in Primary Care at Queen Mary, University of London. He is an internationally and nationally recognised expert in realist review and evaluation. He has extensive expertise in undertaking and providing methodological support for both methods as well in their methodological development. He recently completed a UK National Institute of Health Research funded project to develop quality and reporting standards and training materials for realist reviews ( He works part time as a NHS General Practitioner in London.


Time Topic Goal(s)
10:45 - 11:00 Registration/tea & coffee
11:00 - 11:15 Introductions Get to know each other
11:15 - 12:15 The essentials of realism Understand the underlying principles and assumptions of realism
12:15 - 13:00 Lunch
13:00 - 14:00 Developing programme theory and CMO analyses Practice developing a realist programme theory and CMO analyses
14:00 - 14:15 Break (tea/coffee)
14:15 - 15:45 The (Ultra rapid) realist review A very brief introduction to realist review and more practice developing programme theory and CMO analyses
15:45 - 16:00 Wrapping up and closing comments

Optional Reading before the workshop

If you have time, please try to read the optional preparatory reading suggestions.

There is much to cover in this half day workshop and if you want to get a head start then you may wish to read the following:

Realist methods in medical education research: what are they and what can they contribute?

Wong G, Greenhalgh T, Westhorp G, Pawson R.

Medical Education Volume 46, Issue 1, pages 89–96, January 2012 (open access)


Whilst this paper discusses realist research from a medical education perspective, the concepts it covers are equally applicable to any complex social intervention

Realist Synthesis: RAMESES Training materials, July 2013

Wong G, Westhorp G, Pawson R, Greenhalgh T.


These training materials provide practical ‘how to’ guidance on tackling the some of the more challenging parts of a realist synthesis (or review).



Pawson, R. & Tilley, N. 1997, Realistic Evaluation Sage, London
This is Pawson and Tilley’s seminal book on realist evaluation and if you are interested in this method, it is a must read.

Pawson, R. 2006, Evidence-based Policy. A Realist Perspective Sage, London.

This is Pawson’s seminal book on realist synthesis and if you are interested in this method, you should try to read it first.

Pawson, R. 2013, The Science of Evaluation: A realist manifesto Sage, London
Pawson provides more detail on his take on realism and its application in this book.

Pawson, R., Greenhalgh, T., Harvey, G., & Walshe, K. 2004, Realist synthesis - an introduction. ESRC Working Paper Series ESRC, London.
Pawson et al. provided a more concise description of realist synthesis in this document. Whilst it does cover the steps in a realist review, my feeling is that it if you wish to know more about the underlying principles and assumptions of realism, you would have to read one of the other methodological texts I have provided or Pawson’s book (see above).

Example reviews

These reviews provide examples of how realist syntheses have been applied successfully to a range of topic areas.

Jackson, L., Langille, L., Lyons, R., Hughes, J., Martin, D., & Winstanley, V. 2009, "Does moving from a high-poverty to lower-poverty neighborhood improve mental health? A realist review of 'Moving to Opportunity'", Health & Place, vol. 15, pp. 961-970.

Jagosh J, Macaulay A, Pluye P, Salsberg J, Bush P, Henderson J, Sirett E, Wong G, Cargo M, Herbert C, Seifer S, Green L, Greenhalgh T. 2012, “Uncovering the Benefits of Participatory Research: Implications of a Realist Review for Health Research and Practice” Milbank Quarterly, vol. 90, pp. 311-346

McMahon, T. 2010, A realist review of evidence to guide targeted approaches to HIV/AIDS prevention among immigrants living in high-income countries, Ph.D.,FlindersUniversity.

Wong, G., Greenhalgh, T., & Pawson, R. 2010, "Internet-based medical education: a realist review of what works, for whom and in what circumstances", BMC Medical Education, vol. 10, p. 12.

Wong, G., Pawson, R., & Owen, L. 2011, "Policy guidance on threats to legislative interventions in public health: a realist synthesis", BMC Public Health, vol. 11, no. 222.


It is essential to register your place as places are limited to 20 and for catering purposes. Deadline to register by is 5pm, Monday 21st January 2014. Please click here to take you to the online booking form. 








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Monday 20 January 2014

Discussion event on the theme 'Optimising Population Health'

12:30pm to 2:30pm, F009, Wolfson Seminar Room, Wolfson Building, Wolfson Research Institute

The event will explore the theme optimising population health, what does it mean and what should it mean? The event aims to stimulate researchers to collaborate on future research.

Three panel speakers will present different perspectives and encourage discussion and debate about the need and direction of future research.

Andrew Gray, Emeritus Professor of Public Management, School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, and Hon. Fellow, Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing, Durham University

What health are we optimising, for which population in what circumstances?

Is this optimising as an ideal construct or as a process set within systemic constraints. Which population are we referring to? Population as society, locality, or end user? What health is being optimised and is it health as a state of being or health as an accumulation of health interventions? Lastly, is health optimised through prevention or cure and are the circumstances economic, social, or political?

Eugene Milne, Professor and Director, Adult Health & Wellbeing, Public Health England

Restructuring of the English NHS and public health system had the aim, in part, of separating preventive and treatment streams of activity with a view to breaking the dominance of response over prevention. There is now substantial opportunity in the new system for a greater radicalism in health improvement and reduction of ill-health. These issues are still to be properly explored, but it is likely that the cost-utility thinking that informs health care planning will not speak adequately to the health and wellbeing concerns of communities and their representatives. Articulating and communicating a new and better common understanding of key choices for prevention, health, care and wellbeing will be essential.

Ted Schrecker, Professor of Global Health Policy, School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, Durham University

“The inequality machine is reshaping the whole planet,” as the editor of Le Monde Diplomatique recently wrote.. This is the fundamental fact against which prospects for reducing health disparities through public policy must be assessed. Many health researchers apparently continue to believe, that research “can engage policy makers in understanding the true costs of social disadvantage and motivate action”. A more realistic view may be that most governments are perfectly aware of the (health and other) costs of disadvantage and rising inequality, but have simply decided on the dispensability of some portion of their populations. How can researchers and practitioners deal with this prospect in an ethically acceptable way?


It is essential to register your place as places are limited and also for catering purposes as a buffet lunch will be provided. Please click here to take you to the online booking form. 


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Friday 17 January 2014

WRI/CMH/IAS joint event: The Lantern Parade: A Conversation

9:00am to 5:00pm, Wolfson Research Institute

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Monday 6 January 2014

Wolfson Coffee Morning

10:30am to 11:00am, Wolfson Street, Wolfson Research Institute, Queen's Campus

A Wolfson coffee morning will be held on Monday 6th January 2014 from 10.30am - 11.00am in the Wolfson Street. Professor Sarah Atkinson, Co-Director, Belief, Understanding & Wellbeing will be available to discuss her role and support to the WRI under the BUW theme.

Please do come along and network over a coffee and a cake.

Everyone is welcome.

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