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Evidence for public health policy on inequalities: 2: Assembling the evidence jigsaw
  1. Margaret Whitehead1,
  2. Mark Petticrew2,
  3. Hilary Graham3,
  4. Sally J Macintyre2,
  5. Clare Bambra1,
  6. Matt Egan2
  1. 1Department of Public Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3Institute for Health Research, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Petticrew
 MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK;


Study objective: To garner research leaders’ perceptions and experiences of the types of evidence that influence policy on health inequalities, and their reflections on how the flow of such research evidence could be increased.

Design, setting, and participants: Qualitative two day residential workshop with senior research leaders, most of whom were currently involved in evaluations of the health effects of major policies. In four in depth sessions, facilitated by the authors in turn, focused questions were presented to participants to reveal their views and experiences concerning evidence synthesis for policy on inequalities. These were analysed thematically.

Main results: Five types of evidence for policy on health inequalities were felt to be particularly persuasive with policymakers: observational evidence showing the existing of a problem; narrative accounts of the impacts of policies from the household perspective; controlled evaluations; natural policy experiments; and historical evidence. Methods of improving the availability and use of these sources of information were put forward.

Conclusions: This paper and its companion have considered the current evidence base for policies to reduce health inequalities, and how this could be improved. There is striking congruence between the views of the researchers in this study and policy advisers in paper 1, suggesting that a common understanding may be emerging. The findings suggest significant potential for rapid progress to be made in developing both evidence based policy, and policy relevant evidence to tackle inequalities in health.

  • evidence based policy
  • health inequalities

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  • Funding: this study was funded as part of the ESRC’s “EvidenceNetwork” project grant number H141251011. Mark Petticrew is funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive Department of Health.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

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