Tackling UK health inequalities: If ‘evidence-based policy’ was not enough, can public engagement help?

In-person and online

Despite the mass of scholarship examining the UK’s persistent health inequalities, policy success has been limited. This seminar will start by considering why this is, exploring the role of institutionalism, advocacy, lobbying and publics. It will argue a key barrier has been that many policymakers do not believe macro-level, evidence-informed proposals would attract sufficient public support to be viable.

Professor Smith will draw on a mixed methods project to examine public views of health inequalities and potential policy responses, using the results to argue that members of the public generally have a good understanding of the social determinants of health but that (for complex reasons) this does not always translate into explicit recognition of health inequalities. Professor Smith will show how the results challenge perceptions that there is a lack of public support for the kinds of upstream policy proposals favoured by many researchers, but go on to demonstrate that, despite evident support for upstream policy responses, some of these proposals also generated substantial controversy within jury discussions. The analysis suggests this occurred as a result of three intersecting factors: a resistance to ideas experienced by participants as disempowering; the existence of discourses that run counter to ideas about health inequalities; and a lack of trust in local and national government. This has important implications for those seeking to promote evidence-informed policy responses to health inequalities, suggesting efforts to better communicate patterns and causes of health inequalities may make little difference without addressing these broader challenges.

Booking required for people outside of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention (DSPI). DSPI Members do not need to register.