The Centre for Health and Society looks across society at broad-ranging questions, examining how technology, commerce, ethics, economics and politics influence health.

At the Centre for Health and Society we want to understand the ways that society shapes individual and population health. These are called the social and structural determinants of health. How healthy you are is determined by factors well beyond lifestyle choices, clinical care, or genetics. Factors such as where you live, how much money you earn, or what work you do, are just as important. At the Centre we examine the many ways that these and other social and economic factors influence health.

The Centre acts as a hub, connecting academics, health practitioners, and health advocates to explore how we can improve people’s health and wellbeing. It includes leading academics who combine internationally leading research with a wealth of experience working with organisations involved in policy-development, professional regulation, and health promotion. Our members work with colleagues from across disciplines to develop innovative approaches to healthcare delivery, policy and practice that better support health and wellbeing in the real world.

Centre co-directors: Dr Gary Fooks and Dr Alexis Paton

 

Mission and Vision

Our mission is to develop innovative and practical solutions to address the social and economic factors that contribute to poor health, and improve health and wellbeing regionally, nationally, and internationally.

We strive to create a collaborative space for researchers to develop ideas and projects that examine the relationships between health and society. In doing so, we seek to develop evidence-based, real world practical recommendations to improve health, wellbeing and health service delivery.

As part of our mission, the Centre emphasises partnership and engagement between academics and local communities, charities, service providers, and regional and national government as both co-producers and users of knowledge. To meet our aim of providing real world change, the Centre works directly with key policy-makers and seeks to position itself as an influential voice in health policy, both regionally and nationally.

Research

At the Centre we work in partnership with regional, national and international colleagues and organisations to examine the relationship between health and society. All of our research is guided by our key strategic priorities, which centre on reducing inequalities in health and well-being through co-produced research and research translation.

Reducing Inequalities in Health and Well-Being Through Research

The social and structural determinants of health have an important influence on health inequalities –avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. Income, education, unemployment, working conditions and food insecurity all influence health equity. Our research focuses on improving understanding of how social and economic inequalities affect health, and identifying practical ways of improving health for all of society.

Co-Production in Research and Research Translation

We feel that research can only create real change when it works with the people, communities and sectors it seeks to benefit. We work directly with our beneficiaries to optimise the impact of our research on individual and population health. As part of this commitment the Centre works with partners, such as the Inequalities in Health Alliance, to provide the evidence base needed to lobby for change to policy and practice that improve the communities we work with.

Research projects

Current projects
Understanding Barriers to Healthy and Sustainable Communities

This project aims to better understand health inequalities in some of the most deprived wards of East Birmingham by engaging local communities and students in co-designed conversations on local health challenges to better understand barriers to co-produce solutions. Based on findings, local community groups have received money to develop pilot projects to reduce barriers to good health. This project is a collaboration between the Centre for Health and Society, Birmingham Community Healthcare, Citizens UK, Aspire, BLESST, SH, Huda Community Centre, Aston Student Union, Welcome Change, Age Concern Birmingham and Bringing Hope.

Managing Multimorbidity with Health and Lifestyle Information

This project examines how health and lifestyle information is used and understood by people with multiple health conditions, and the healthcare staff who care for them. By examining the use of this information for patients with multimorbidity, it seeks to map an understanding of how patients manage the many different types of health and lifestyle advice they receive in order to manage their conditions.

Hidden Voices

In collaboration with the History Department at Aston, this project examined the experience of Black healthcare workers in Birmingham and the Midlands. An oral history project, the experiences and stories of the participants can be seen here.

Planning Ahead

Launched in December 2021 by best-selling author Dr Kathryn Mannix (With the End in Mind, Listen), the ‘Planning Ahead’ Project works with members of the public, healthcare professionals, care homes and the third sector (e.g. Hospice UK, Marie Curie) to develop an online resource that helps support discussion about advance care planning. The Planning Ahead website is currently part of the Northern Irish e-library of resources for advance care planning and the NHS’ Universal Principles of Advance Care Planning. Research is ongoing and if you are interested in taking part or learning more about it, please contact Dr Alexis Paton on a.paton@aston.ac.uk

Conversations for Complex Care

Working with the Royal College of Physicians, the Conversations for Complex Care Project is trialling a new form of clinical documentation, the Ethical Care Decision-Making Record, which facilitates and documents difficult decisions about changes to the place of care for complex patients within the NHS. This project is ongoing, if you are a healthcare professional interested in taking part, please contact Dr Alexis Paton on a.paton@aston.ac.uk

Cultural and Personal Identity as part of Health Lifestyle

Effects of cultural aspects of lifestyle on health, through both analysis of epidemiological data sets and through developing work with communities. Dr Mellor seeks to develop an increased understanding of how subtle cultural and personal influences can impact on lifestyle to improve wellbeing and health. Current and ongoing work in this area includes the consideration of moderating effects on healthy ageing and fasting as a religious practice on cardiovascular risk.

Engagement work

Members of the Centre are active in promoting our research and the overall aim of the Centre through engagement with the media. We are always happy to speak about our work and share our expertise with media, please get in touch with our press office team at pr@aston.ac.uk if you would like to speak to any of our Centre members.

A few examples of the kind of media and engagement work our members are involved in:

Visiting scholars

The Centre currently has three visiting research fellows:

  • Stephane Horel, award winning journalist at Le Monde
  • Dr Ioana Manolescu-Goujot, Inria Saclay-IIle-de-France
  • Angela Carriedo, Executive Committee Member, World Public Health Nutrition Association

If you are interested in being a visiting scholar at the Centre, please get in touch with Dr Gary Fooks on g.fooks@aston.ac.uk