The politics of ideas: the complex interplay of health inequalities research and policy

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    Public health research is overtly orientated towards influencing policy and yet, despite official commitments to ‘evidence-based policy’, most analyses conclude that the impact of public health research has been limited. Based on an analysis of post-1997 UK policy statements and interviews with 112 key actors, this paper argues that the failure of ‘evidence-based’ policy to emerge relates to the fact it is ideas, not evidence, which travel between research and policy, and that these malleable entities are translated as they move between actors. By unpacking six factors that appear to have shaped the ‘interplay of ideas’ about health inequalities, this paper draws attention to the ways in which policy influences research (as well as vice versa). The paper argues that two distinct ‘idea-types’ are evident within the data, each of which helps explain the difficulties in achieving ‘evidence-based’ policy responses to health inequalities: ‘institutionalised ideas’ and ‘chameleonic ideas’.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)561-574
    Number of pages14
    JournalScience and Public Policy
    Issue number5
    Early online date6 Dec 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014


    • evidence-based policy
    • health inequalities
    • ideational
    • institutionalism
    • research impact
    • complexity

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