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J Epidemiol Community Health 58:811-816 doi:10.1136/jech.2003.015289
  • Evidence based public health policy and practice

Evidence for public health policy on inequalities: 1: The reality according to policymakers

  1. Mark Petticrew1,
  2. Margaret Whitehead2,
  3. Sally J Macintyre1,
  4. Hilary Graham3,
  5. Matt Egan1
  1. 1MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Department of Public health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3Health Development Agency, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Petticrew
 MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK; markmsoc.mrc.gla.ac.uk
  • Accepted 26 March 2004

Abstract

Objective: To explore with UK and international policy advisors how research evidence influences public health policy making, and how its relevance and utility could be improved, with specific reference to the evidence on the production and reduction of health inequalities.

Design, setting, and participants: Qualitative residential workshop involving senior policy advisors with a substantive role in policy development across a range of sectors (mainly public health, but also including education, social welfare, and health services). In four in depth sessions, facilitated by the authors, focused questions were presented to participants. Their responses were then analysed thematically to identify key themes, relating to the availability and utility of existing evidence on health inequalities.

Main results: The lack of an equity dimension in much aetiological and evaluative research was highlighted by participants. Much public health research was also felt to have weak underlying theoretical underpinnings. As well as evaluations of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of policy and other interventions, they identified a need for predictive research, and for methodological research to further develop methods for assessing the impact on health of clusters of interventions.

Conclusions: This study reinforces the view that there is a lack of information on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of policies, and it uncovered additional gaps in the health inequalities evidence base. A companion paper discusses researchers’ views of how the production of more relevant public health evidence can be stimulated.

Footnotes

  • Funding: this study was funded as part of the ESRC’s “Evidence-Network” (project grant number H141251011). Mark Petticrew and Matt Egan are funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive Department of Health.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.