Centre for Health and Society

 

The Centre for Health and Society is a transdisciplinary centre established to promote understanding of how social factors shape individual and population health and clinical care. We look across society at broad-ranging questions which examine the ways in which technology, lifestyle, commerce, ethics, economics, politics and culture intersect with health.

About Us

At the Centre for Health and Society we want to understand the ways that society impacts and shapes individual and population health, what are called the social determinants of health. How healthy you are is shaped and determined by factors well beyond clinical or genetic background. Factors such as where you live, where you work, and where you go to school are just as important when it comes to health. At the Centre we examine the many ways that technology, lifestyle, commerce, ethics, economics, politics and culture intersect with health.

The Centre acts as a hub, connecting a network of scholars from across Aston University, and beyond, to explore how we can improve people’s health and wellbeing. It includes leading academics who combine internationally-recognised research with a wealth of experience working with organisations responsible for 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.

Mission and Vision

Our mission is to develop innovative and practical solutions to reduce those factors in society 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 provide an inter-disciplinary space for researchers to develop ideas and projects examining the relationship between health and society. We look to the communities we engage with to set our research agenda. When developing and designing our research we are guided by the Centre’s strategic priorities.

Strategic Priorities

Inclusivity

Whether this be working with under-researched communities, or taking a more global focus in our work, we strive to develop inclusive research that meets the current needs of diverse communities in the UK and beyond. Inclusivity also extends to our commitment to collaborative working with colleagues across different disciplines and within different sectors and using a range of methodologies to widen the scope and reach of our research.

Co-Production in Research and Research Translation

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 population health.

Reducing Inequalities Through Research

Not everyone has the luxury of good health. Put simply where you live, your occupation, how much you earn, your education, and your ethnic background directly contributes to how healthy you are. Our research is centred on improving understanding of how social and economic inequalities affect health, and identifying practical ways of improving health for all of society.

Current Research

Planning Ahead

The ‘Planning Ahead’ Project is working with GPs, Hospice UK, Marie Curie and the RCGP to develop an online tool for the creation of advance care plans. If you are a GP interested in taking part, please contact Dr Paton on a.paton@aston.ac.uk

Ethical Care Decision Making Record

Working with the RCP, Dr Paton is trialling a new form of 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. If you are a healthcare professional interested in taking part, please contact Dr Paton on a.paton@aston.ac.uk

Cultural and Personal Identity as part of Healthy 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.

Fertility Tracking Technologies

Dr Alina Geampana is currently investigating the commercial development of algorithms used to track and make predictions about fertility patterns. Using a socio-technical approach to the study of digital health, the project brings together the experiences of range of stakeholders involved in the development and use of fertility tracking technologies (FTT). A key aim of the project is to explore beneficial pathways towards the use of FTT data.

EU Health Governance Research Network

Dr Godziewski coordinates a research network on EU Health Governance, together with Dr Eleanor Brooks (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Mary Guy (Lancaster University). The network is funded by the University Association for Contemporary European Studies and provides a platform to explore the growing public debate on the appropriate scope, structure and ambition of EU health governance. If you’re interested in joining the network, contact: euhealthgov@gmail.com

People

Our People
Co-Director, Dr Alexis Paton

Dr Alexis Paton is a medical ethicist and sociologist. Her work examines areas of ethical concern in medicine, with a focus on health inequality, patient safety, decision-making in medicine, and healthcare improvement. She is an expert in medical ethics, medical sociology and social epidemiology. She does practical research designed to improve health policy and practice.

She is currently working on two projects that aim to support decision-making in NHS practice. The ‘Planning Ahead’ Project is working with GPs, Hospice UK, Marie Curie and the RCGP to develop an online tool for the creation of advance care plans. She is also working with the RCP trialling a new form of 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.

Looking to the future Dr Paton is developing several grants examining the intersection of the social determinants of the health, racism, age and health behaviours and beliefs for patients with multi-morbidities. Please get in touch if you are interested in working with Dr Paton.

Outside of Aston, she is currently the Chair of the Committee on Ethical Issues in Medicine for the Royal College of Physicians and a Trustee of the Institute of Medical Ethics. She continues to writes a regular column for the Independent, and all her pieces can be viewed at: https://www.independent.co.uk/author/alexis-paton

Co-Director, Dr Gary Fooks

Dr Gary Fooks is a political sociologist with interests in the economic and commercial determinants of health. His research explores the interdependencies between public policy, evidence-based policy-making, business activity and well-being. He is currently working on three projects, which speak to his interests in corporate influence in science and the relationship between economics and wellbeing.

The first involves a collaboration with Stéphane Horel (Le Monde), Ioana Manolescu (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique, Paris), Tom Mills (Aston) and Killian Mullan (Aston) on a project which aims to map and make sense of conflicts of interest in biomedical research. Using machine learning and social network analysis the project aims to chart the diffusion of corporate funding of biomedical science globally and examine its relationship with public universities and established scientific institutions.

A second project focuses on the relationship between government subsidies to business, health, and wellbeing. Government financial support to business has been brought into sharp relief by the current pandemic, but beyond the current crisis government subsidies to business are significant. The project explores the potential for this support to promote community health and wellbeing.

The third project combines documents obtained through litigation in the US with interview data to understand how working norms, styles, and routines associated with debased scientific practices emerge and are sustained among scientists within multinational corporations.

Dr Alina GeampanaDr Alina Geampana is a medical sociologist interested in new and emerging health technologies, with a specific focus on user perspectives, gender, risk, clinical trials and organisational practices. Her work has covered topics such as: contraception, drug risk/benefit assessment, assisted reproduction, the production of evidence in the IVF sector and the commercialisation of reproductive care. She completed her doctoral studies at McGill University in 2018 and shortly thereafter started working as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Queen Mary University of London, investigating the use of imaging technologies in IVF. She joined Aston University as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the Sociology of Health in June 2020 and remain affiliated with Queen Mary University of London as an Honorary Senior Research Fellow.
Dr Charlotte Godziewski

Dr Charlotte Godziewski is a political sociologist interested in health promotion and the political determinants of non-communicable diseases.

Her interest in the politics of health developed while working as a dietitian in Nepal between 2012 and 2014, where she established and led a nutrition department in Dhulikhel at the Kathmandu University Teaching Hospital. After coming back to Europe, she worked as a policy intern for Food and Agriculture at the European Public Health Alliance.

Charlotte's research focuses on macrosocial determinants of noncommunicable diseases. Her interests include the impact of economic governance on public health, the role of commercial actors in shaping public health policymaking, as well as the relationship between research and policy in those areas. She has explored these issues with an empirical focus on the EU context, reflecting upon 'health promotion mainstreaming' as a site of tension between the social and economic logics of EU integration. More recently, she has grown interested in 'degrowth' and health determinants. Along with colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and Lancaster University, Charlotte coordinates the EU Health Governance Research Network.

Dr Duane MellorDr Duane Mellor worked as a clinical dietitian prior to moving into higher education as a researcher and educator. He has undertaken research mainly in the areas of diabetes and ageing relating to nutrition and lifestyle. He has moved from clinical research and epidemiology into guideline development and understanding of how people engage with lifestyle guidelines.. In moving to Aston, he took the move into medical education at Aston Medical School, and has gone on to become Associate Dean of Education – Quality. Although his academic career has moved from dietetics, he is still active in the development of diabetes care and practice as part of the Diabetes UK Nutrition Working Group and British Dietetic Association Diabetes Special Interest Group committee along with scientific advisory roles for the British Nutrition Foundation and Heart UK. Through this continued work in supporting care development Duane aims to develop community developed interventions which are inclusive of individual’s cultural identity and heritage.
Dr Killian Mullan

Dr Killian Mullan is interested in the links between health and wellbeing and daily time use and activity patterns, with a particular interest in how children and families spend time. In his recent work he has been studying changes in children's time use in the UK over four decades from the mid-1970s onwards, in activities linked to health and wellbeing including changes the time they spend in screen-based activities and time in exercise, out-of-home play, and active travel. His prior research has also examined factors linked to children’s engagement in physical activity including the influence of parent concerns around children’s time outdoors and neighbourhood safety.

Associate Members
  • Dr Judy Scully, Senior Lecturer in Work and Organisation
  • Dr Matthew Carter, Deputy Head of the Work Organisation Department and Lecturer in Work & Organisational Psychology
  • Dr Jonathan Crawshaw, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management (HRM), and Research Convenor of the Department of Work and Organisation

Contact

Looking to get in touch? We welcome approaches from across all sectors and the media.

Dr Alexis Paton / Dr Gary Fooks