Health inequalities in Scotland and England: the contrasting journeys of ideas from research into policy

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Both the UK's Labour Government and Scotland's devolved Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition Executive have committed themselves to reducing health inequalities. Furthermore, both institutions have emphasised the importance of using evidence to inform policy responses. In light of such political commitments, a significant amount of work has been undertaken in the field of health inequalities in order to: (i) review the available research evidence; (ii) assess the extent to which policies have been based on this research evidence; and (iii) evaluate the success (or failure) of policies to tackle health inequalities. Yet so far only limited attention has been given to exploring how key actors involved in research-policy dialogues understand the processes involved. In an attempt to address this gap, this article draws on data from semi-structured interviews with 58 key actors in the field of health inequalities research and policymaking in the UK to argue that it is ideas, rather than research evidence, which have travelled from research into policy. The descriptions of the varying journeys of these ideas fit three types--successful, partial and fractured--each of which is outlined with reference to one example. The paper then employs existing theories about research-policy relations and the movement of ideas in an attempt to illuminate and better understand the contrasting journeys. In the concluding discussion, it is argued that the third approach, which focuses on the entrepreneurial processes involved in the marketing of ideas, is most helpful in understanding the research findings, but that this needs to be discussed in relation to the political context within which negotiations take place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1438-1449
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number7
Early online date12 Jan 2007
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2007


  • research-policy relations
  • ideas
  • health inequalities
  • entrepreneurial processes


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