Desperately seeking reductions in health inequalities: perspectives of UK researchers on past, present and future directions in health inequalities research

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Following government commitments to reducing health inequalities from 1997 onwards, the UK has been recognised as a global leader in health inequalities research and policy. Yet health inequalities have continued to widen by most measures, prompting calls for new research agendas and advocacy to facilitate greater public support for the upstream policies that evidence suggests are required. However, there is currently no agreement as to what new research might involve or precisely what public health egalitarians ought to be advocating. This article presents an analysis of discussions among 52 researchers to consider the feasibility that research-informed advocacy around particular solutions to health inequalities may emerge in the UK. The data indicate there is a consensus that more should be been done to learn from post-1997 efforts to reduce health inequalities, and an obvious desire to provide clearer policy guidance in future. However, discussions as to where researchers should now focus their efforts and with whom researchers ought to be engaging reveal three distinct ways of approaching health inequalities, each of which has its own epistemological foundations. Such differences imply that a consensus on reducing health inequalities is unlikely to materialise. Instead, progress seems most likely if all three approaches are simultaneously enabled.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-478
Number of pages20
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number3
Early online date20 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • health inequalities, interventions, UK, evidence-based policy, research, advocacy