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Health and Well-Being

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The Health and Well-Being theme undertakes research and policy engagement on health systems, nutrition and obesity, tobacco and alcohol control, social care, and the politics of aging. Work is organised into three closely linked, interdisciplinary research and knowledge clusters: corporations and health, patient and citizen engagement, and healthy ageing. 

Corporations and Health
Our work on corporations and health explores the intersections between the commodification and commercialisation of unhealthful commodities and public health. Unhealthful commodities, such as highly processed foods, alcohol, tobacco, and endocrine disrupting chemicals, have driven the global increase in non-communicable diseases. Our research seeks to explain how unhealthful commodities, life-style choices and the broader social and political environment are conditioned by the activities of corporations within three interdependent fields: product development, marketing and policy influence (see figure).

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Patient and Citizenship Engagement
Globally there is an increased interest in ensuring patients have a more active role in shaping not only their own healthcare but also health policy and prioritisation as well as being more involved in research. Our work explores the different approaches pursued in different countries within Europe, North America and Australia and how these relate to growing consumerism, patient choice and the design of the health system. Issues of individualism embedded in consumerist approaches to healthcare challenge social solidarity and the risk-pooling that is central to the design of most health systems. The need to balance the co-production of health and wellbeing with ensuring equity in access to health care sits at the centre of the tension between patient involvement and public/citizen involvement. Current work includes implementing an innovative public involvement system for Public Health England and piloting a measurement tool for evaluating the impact of involvement within healthcare organisations.

Healthy Aging
The predicted costs to public finances resulting from rapid population ageing are said to necessitate far-reaching reforms to health and social care systems.  Although a coherent concrete policy approach has been slow to emerge, at the level of discourse the solution to the ageing of populations is said to lie in responsibilization strategies whereby individuals at younger ages invest in their future healthy ageing.  At the level of health and social care systems, there is perennial talk of better integration between primary care and social services and investment in upstream prevention strategies. Again, however, a coherent approach remains elusive and older people, particularly those who are frail and with multiple chronic health conditions, are left to navigate a complex and patchwork care system.  Our work examines how the older old fare within such a care system and within a policy context which lays increasing emphasis on self management.  Previous and ongoing work looks at how healthy ageing strategies within assisted living environments impact differently on those who are relatively fit and those who may have health and possibly cognitive impairments.  Current work is also examining what choice in health and social care means for those of different ages, with different health status and within different social contexts.

Named investigator: Gary Fooks
Title: Low Visibility Tobacco industry Political Activity and Contemporary Tobacco Regulation
Funder and Reference: Cancer Research UK - C38058/A18499
Award: £42,295
Dates: July 2014-October 2016
Summary: Contemporary regulatory pressures on the tobacco industry in conjunction with implementation of Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control have encouraged tobacco companies to place greater emphasis on lower visibility political techniques in order to shape the underlying legal basis of health policymaking. This project examines an important aspect of this phenomenon: efforts aimed at shaping policy innovation and instruments associated with Better Regulation agenda. In addition to driving creeping bureaucratisation in policymaking and providing a framework for ex post facto review of health policy, rules and guidance associated with Better Regulatory initiatives are likely to facilitate legal review of policy implementation and are therefore highly relevant to understanding contemporary legal risks to health policy.