Tackling and mitigating health inequalities – policymakers and practitioners 'talk and draw' their theories

Mackenzie, M., Hastings, A., Babbel, B., Simpson, S. and Watt, G. (2017) Tackling and mitigating health inequalities – policymakers and practitioners 'talk and draw' their theories. Social Policy and Administration, 51(1), pp. 151-170. (doi:10.1111/spol.12154)

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Abstract

In the context of a long-standing academic acceptance of the socially structured nature of health inequalities, there has been a growing literature that critically examines policies that aim to reduce them. This has demonstrated inadequate policy assessment of the nature of the problem of health inequalities and correspondingly partial solutions that privilege interventions that focus on individual lifestyle solutions over more structural approaches. Much of the research that has been undertaken in this field to explore competing theories of inequalities has analyzed national policy documents or the views of senior policy advisers rather than practitioners. This study uses Raphael’s ‘seven discourses of the social determinants of health’ to understand the implicit theories of health inequalities of both practitioners and policymakers working within a single health care system as they talk about different policy typologies. To help penetrate potentially well-rehearsed discourses about health inequalities, it tests a visual method of stimulating discussion about how different types of policy might operate to narrow/widen existing gaps in outcomes. Building on Raphael, it finds that individuals’ theories of health inequalities contain co-existing although not synthesized material and behavioural explanations and that, although the social patterning of material disadvantage was recognized, the role of power and politics is underplayed. Variations between participants did not align with role (policy/practice) and using visual methods to represent the impact of different policy types on health inequalities, though challenging for participants, stimulated reflection about a subject matter that has otherwise become rather stagnant.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hastings, Professor Annette and Watt, Professor Graham and MacKenzie, Professor Mhairi and Babbel, Mrs Breannon
Authors: Mackenzie, M., Hastings, A., Babbel, B., Simpson, S., and Watt, G.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > General Practice and Primary Care
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:Social Policy and Administration
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:0144-5596
ISSN (Online):1467-9515
Published Online:09 November 2015

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