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Katy Dickson
Economics and Social History
4th year
Guided by Research or a Stab in the Dark: the Impact of Health Inequalities Research on the British Public Health Policy Creation
While health is recognised as a characteristic of British citizenship under the protection of the government, from the 1980s, health inequalities have widened in Britain. Due to the complexity and scale of the topic, this research focuses on the policy impacts of two research reports focused on health inequalities: the Black Report and the Acheson Report. Despite embracing these two polemical research papers, administrations in power never adhered to the radical goals offered by researchers. This raises the question: to what extent did government health policy take account of research on health inequalities in the period 1980-2000? This research devises an original long-term assessment of the political and policy impact of public health research in late 20th-century Britain. Through a review of interdisciplinary literature and a close reading of policy papers, research papers, and debates, this research investigates factors which influenced the government response to health inequalities. Several factors are considered in this paper, including the research agenda, the alleged apolitical stance of researchers, and the unrealistic proposals suggested by reports. The policymaker’s agenda is also explored, and the influence of the distinctive political circumstances surrounding the release of each report. Understanding the lessons that researchers learned about the differences between the research and political agenda is crucial to understanding the impact that this could have on the translation of research findings into policy and practice. This remains relevant today as the COVID-19 pandemic has reignited a new urgency to deal with rising health inequalities today.
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