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Lay Perspectives on Health Inequalities and Proposed Responses – A Challenge to Experts?

Lay Perspectives on Health Inequalities and Proposed Responses – A Challenge to Experts?
Speaker: Kat Smith # University of Edinburgh
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Date and Time
29th Sep 2017 15:00 - 29th Sep 2017 18:00
Medical School, Teviot - G.16 Seminar Room - Doorway 4, reception in CMB foyer

Talk title: Lay Perspectives on Health Inequalities and Proposed Responses – A Challenge to Experts?

Abstract: The links between socioeconomic deprivation and poor health have been extensively studied in Britain and the failure of efforts to develop successful evidence-informed policy responses have begun to stimulate more outward facing research activity.  This represents a welcome acknowledgement of the important role that politics and democracy play in policymaking. Yet, current public engagement efforts appear to be largely premised on an assumption that public understandings of health inequalities are limited.  This paper draws on three distinct sources to challenge this assumption: (1) a meta-ethnography; (2) a series of citizens’ juries in Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester (undertaken in July 2016); and (3) a 2016 national survey. The results demonstrate that, when employing sufficiently in-depth qualitative research techniques, public understandings of health inequalities strongly cohere with academic accounts (at least among groups who have experienced socioeconomic deprivation). However, these insights tend not to be captured in survey data or in explicit discussions about health differences. Drawing on the citizens’ juries and meta-ethnography data in particular, the paper first considers potential explanations for this apparent paradox, focusing on the stigma associated with poverty, low pay and poor health. Next, drawing on the survey and citizen jury data, it compares lay perspectives on potential policy responses to health inequalities with academic and policy claims about public opinion. Taken together, the results pose a significant challenge to current assumptions about both public understandings of the social determinants of health inequalities and public support for the kinds of policy responses that most researchers working in this field support. The findings suggest more deliberative, solution orientated public conversations about health inequalities are required.

Short biographical statement: Kat Smith is a Reader at the University of Edinburgh, where she currently serves as Director of the Global Public Health Unit and Co-Director of SKAPE (the Centre for Science, Knowledge and Policy at Edinburgh). Over the past ten years Kat's main research focus has been exploring how different kinds of actors work to influence policies impacting on public health and health inequalities. Within this, her research has focused particularly on the construction, promotion, translation and policy impact of academic and other 'expert' knowledges.  More recently, Kat’s research has begun to focus on the intersection between public and expert debates around health inequalities. From January 2018, Kat is taking on Co-Editorship of the international journal Evidence & Policy.