Thursday, 24 July 2014

52 weeks in public health research: part 29

Posted by Jemma HawkinsJenni Remnant, Shelina Visram and Emily Henderson

From Jemma Hawkins (photo credit: Natalie Richards): When compiling the promotional material for a seminar we are organising on 'Tackling Workplace Sedentary Behaviour' we decided that it would be better to create our own image rather than using a stock one. One quick tidy of a colleague's stand-up desk, another colleague's smartphone and me as 'model' donning the famous DECIPHer t-shirt and hey presto!

From Jenni Remnant: Sat down to eat at a Knowledge Exchange conference last week run by the LSE and this was on the table.

From Shelina Visram: This picture was taken in County Durham after a meeting to discuss a pilot project on supporting lifestyle changes amongst people newly diagnosed with a chronic condition. I recently ran some focus groups in the community centre across the road, which required several telephone conversations with a local caterer about what I meant by a ‘healthy buffet lunch’. Thankfully their salad did not contain lard.

From Emily Henderson: It *might* have been said once or twice in the history books that academics are *sometimes* overworked and underpaid, but there are definite benefits. In June I had the pleasure of attending the EvaluatingComplex Public Health Interventions short course at DECIPHer. We were off the leash in the evenings, and I got very lucky with the weather! An evening picnic in Sofia Gardens along the river Taff, Cardiff, Wales. With the latest addition of 'The Lady' mag, white wine and cheeses.

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Just to remind you:

Each Thursday of 2014 we’ll try and post around four pictures on the Fuse blog that capture our weeks in public health research, from the awe-inspiring to the everyday and mundane. Given that more of the latter than the former exists in my life, I foresee problems compiling 208 images worth posting on my own. So this is going to have to be a group project. Send me an image (or images) with a sentence or two describing what aspect of your week in public health research they sum up and I’ll post them as soon as I can. You don’t have to send four together – we can mix and match images from different people in the same week.

Normal rules apply: images you made yourself are best; if you use someone else’s image please check you’re allowed to first; if anyone’s identifiable in an image, make sure they’re happy for it to be posted; nothing rude; nothing that breaks research confidentiality etc.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Knowledge exchange

Posted by Jenni Remnant

Last week I went to a residential in Birmingham run by the London School of Economics. The theme for discussion and workshops was ‘Knowledge Exchange (KE) and Impact’, and had a focus based in social care and social work.

In terms of public health, impact is arguably a necessity and not something to tap on a grant proposal as an add-on. I would suggest that there is no point to public health research if the health of the public is not impacted upon (positively).

So as part of this residential we discussed stakeholder focus groups, partner organisations and dissemination. We discussed REF, academic and policy impact.


We discussed all the snazzy ways to tart up our findings and pitch them to people in an accessible way. These included videos, infographics, twitter and blogs amongst other things. We also learnt how to engage with journalists and the press.


And then on the last day, we learnt about the #JusticeForLB campaign – an incredible shout of anger that grew and was cultivated through Twitter. The campaign, started by the Mother of a young dude called Connor Sparrowhawk, has gained amazing momentum – and for me, personally, is many of the things KE and impact should be.

For a start – it was born from a real issue, as identified by people involved in the real issue.

Connor Sparrowhawk was in a specialist unit called Slade House, an NHS assessment and treatment unit in Oxfordshire. He had autism and epilepsy. Connor was in the unit for 107 days before he died by drowning in one of the baths. The cause of death was initially recorded as ‘natural causes’.

Secondly – the real issue was focused within and around the people it directly affected, and may directly affect in the future. The academics that did become involved in this became involved because it was clear something needed to change, and they cared.

Thirdly – it had, and has, impact: immediate tangible impact; demand from the Sparrowhawk family and support from the campaign meant that the death was subsequently found to be preventable, the unit has been closed down and there has been an inquest.

Finally – this campaign reached out; there were blogs, activities, sponsorships and endless tweeting.

Totally amazing and inspiring.

This might seem really far removed from what we do as researchers, but there is a pattern there that is not so different from what we do;

1) Identify an issue that needs further scrutiny
2) Scrutinise it.
3) Work out what it means, or what the implications are, and then
4) Work out recommendations to go forward with

The reason the #JusticeForLB campaign did such a spectacular job in doing this is in part, I think, due to the lack of any academic-type goals and limitations placed around it. REF was unimportant; impact ratings, finding a niche and career progression were not foregrounded. There was no traditional model to adhere to.

I’m aware that this story has a strong narrative, with irrefutable social justice at the heart of it that may capture interest in a way that some public health doesn’t – but it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) hurt to occasionally think outside the box with research. Even if that box is in another box.

It would be cool to see more research instigated by, committed to and partnered with the people affected by whatever the issue it is. It seems a bit counterproductive to take an issue, decontextualize it through research, and then struggle to communicate the findings back to the ‘stakeholders’ at a later date. Especially if we are then going to lament how people haven’t enacted the lifestyle/policy/ [insert other] change advised in the research.

As useless as ever, I don’t really know how to implement changes that involve remodelling the academic research model – but the residential was definitely an excellent place to broaden the horizon.

I do hope to organise an unconference in the not so distant future though, as a start…so watch this space I guess!


Definitely check #JusticeForLB out on twitter if you get the chance, and spend just over 4 minutes looking at their animation – gifted by an illustrator as part of the campaign – it’s exquisite.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

52 weeks in public health research, part 28


From Catt Turney: I've been thinking a lot recently about the role of place, space and environment in public health, and thought this smoking area at Paddington station was a nice example of a very simple space-related intervention. It's effectively a little cage around some chairs - the sign reads 'Smoking is only permitted in the area designated by barriers around this notice'. The station was busy but this area was completely deserted - a sign it's failing, or working as intended?
From Bronia Arnott: At Newcastle central train station to travel to Leeds for the UKCRC Public Health Research: Centres of Excellence Conference a couple of weeks ago to talk about developing interventions to promote active travel.

 
From Bronia Arnott: Being a parent can make you feel as if you are part of a government experiment that you never consented to at times. This week my daughter brought home this leaflet from school advertising the collaboration between Disney and Change4Life which you can read more about here. The idea is that by working together they will encourage children to increase their physical activity during the school summer holidays. As a developmental health psychologist I can't help but wonder if this intervention is being evaluated?

From Jean Adams: despite my Coke-marketing photo-obsession, my soft-drink of choice is in fact Diet Coke. So this can of Diet Pepsi was a novelty. Sometimes I wonder if people who put their name and face to junk food marketing campaigns think about the implications at all. Maybe Messi thought this was okay because it was Diet Pepsi and not the real thing (which I can understand, but might argue with). Or maybe he didn't think about it at all - it was just another photo shoot that his agent arranged for him.

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Just to remind you:

Each Thursday of 2014 we’ll try and post around four pictures on the Fuse blog that capture our weeks in public health research, from the awe-inspiring to the everyday and mundane. Given that more of the latter than the former exists in my life, I foresee problems compiling 208 images worth posting on my own. So this is going to have to be a group project. Send me an image (or images) with a sentence or two describing what aspect of your week in public health research they sum up and I’ll post them as soon as I can. You don’t have to send four together – we can mix and match images from different people in the same week.

Normal rules apply: images you made yourself are best; if you use someone else’s image please check you’re allowed to first; if anyone’s identifiable in an image, make sure they’re happy for it to be posted; nothing rude; nothing that breaks research confidentiality etc.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Fuse duck flies into the University of Northumbria

Posted by Barbara Harrington

Fuse Duck arrived at Northumbria University on 30th May for a few weeks with me, Barbara Harrington, a researcher and lecturer in public health and patient safety. He quickly settled in having a cup of tea with his new friend, Stress Penguin from Redcar. Stress Penguin was liberated from Redcar whilst doing some interviews around Healthwatch, looking at the role of the new patient and public involvement organisations in the North East.


By Tuesday 3rd June and a lot of switching between PDFs, Excel Files, SPSS and SurveyMonkey for a Delphi project, something stronger than tea was called for. Fortunately Lesley Geddes (in the background), a principal lecturer with a particular interest in health promotion, behaviour change, and social marketing for health, was on hand to provide corrective public health messages about responsible drinking.


On Wednesday, 4th June, Fuse Duck joined in the celebrations when copies of Reforming Healthcare appeared written by Profs Ian Greener, David J Hunter, Russell Mannion, Martin Powell - and me! This is a major critical overview of the research published on healthcare reform in England from 1990 onwards. As you can see, Fuse Duck is riveted, considering the implications of this research for current debates about healthcare reorganisation in England.


Also on Wednesday, Fuse Duck attended our theory discussion seminar - the highlight of the month for many research staff, PhD students and other academics months. Here, staff from different disciplines within the faculty read and discuss some of the key theoretical texts from the social sciences. The seminars are led by Mick Hill, Robbie Duschinky, and Ian Robson. So far we have looked at chapters from Foucault’s Psychiatric Power lecture series, and Bourdieu’s Misrecognition and Symbolic Violence. These are always well led and interesting, discussing theory in relation to the times they were written and how relevant they continue to be. 

In June, we discussed Goffman’s Presentation of Self – Chapter 1. As usual the discussion was wide ranging including references to Hamlet, as well as presentation of self in relation to higher education teaching and health, social work, and education practice. With Fuse Duck attending, there was also a discussion about whether he had inadvertently disrupted the expected setting and consequently the personal fronts people displayed in this seminar. It was in fact a very apt seminar for Fuse Duck to attend. Here he is Ian Watson and me getting to grips with some of the finer points of Goffman.



Thursday, 10 July 2014

52 weeks in public health research, part 27


From Catt Turney: Being in an office when the weather is glorious can be a bit grotty. Luckily, the healthy-snack opportunities posed by summer almost make up for having to be inside rather than frolicking in the sunshine.

From Catt Turney: We recently had an unofficial DECIPHer social climbing Pen y Fan, a little mountain in South Wales. This greeted us at the end - apparently, even up a mountain, you can't get away from the idea that it's only a fun day out if there's junk food or alcohol.

From Amelia Lake: my pass from my first high level steering group meeting for the food responsibility deal - watching policy in practice & the negotiations & complications of food policy.

From Bronia Arnott: I was at the Sage Gateshead with my daughter for a performance called "At the Seaside". It was aimed at young children and parents and involved singing and dancing along to seaside-related songs. I was very impressed that they even made up a song about the importance of sun protection! Hopefully the catchy, repetitive, action song meant that at least some of the children went home remembering the importance of 'slip, slop, slap, seek, slide' - slipping on a t-shirt, slopping on some suncream, slapping on a hat, seeking shade or shelter, and sliding on some sunnies! 

------------------

Just to remind you:

Each Thursday of 2014 we’ll try and post around four pictures on the Fuse blog that capture our weeks in public health research, from the awe-inspiring to the everyday and mundane. Given that more of the latter than the former exists in my life, I foresee problems compiling 208 images worth posting on my own. So this is going to have to be a group project. Send me an image (or images) with a sentence or two describing what aspect of your week in public health research they sum up and I’ll post them as soon as I can. You don’t have to send four together – we can mix and match images from different people in the same week.

Normal rules apply: images you made yourself are best; if you use someone else’s image please check you’re allowed to first; if anyone’s identifiable in an image, make sure they’re happy for it to be posted; nothing rude; nothing that breaks research confidentiality etc.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Social policy and public finance: Are possibilities for health equity shrinking?

Posted by Ted Schrecker, Professor of Global Health Policy, Durham University


With the publication of Thomas Piketty’s massive book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the acceleration of economic inequality has belatedly begun to receive the attention it deserves. His is, in fact, just one of several indispensable recent treatments of the topic. Another, which has received less publicity, is Hard Times: The Divisive Toll of the Economic Slump, by Guardian editorial writer Tom Clark and sociologist Anthony Heath – a meticulously researched treatment of how the recession has affected the United States and the United Kingdom. Readers too impatient to read Capital’s elegantly written 655 pages can find a highly condensed summary of much of Piketty’s work in the 23 May 2014 issue of Science. The summary is especially valuable for a conclusion that comes through more emphatically than it does in the book: ‘Inequality does not follow a deterministic process. …. There are powerful forces pushing alternately in the direction of rising or shrinking inequality. Which one dominates depends on the institutions and policies that societies choose to adopt’.
This is not new to those of us concerned with the social determinants of health; consider the WHO Commission on the topic and its focus on ‘the inequitable distribution of power, money, and resources’. Against this background, what are we to think of a new report on The Condition of Britain from the Institute for Public Policy Research? Since it was released in the same week as initial findings from the Project on Social Exclusion indicating that the proportion of British households living with multiple forms of material deprivation has doubled in the past three decades, one might have expected recommendations for a frontal assault on the elements of economic inequality that are most destructive of health to be the centrepiece of the IPPR report.
Not so. Instead, we get prescriptions for a ‘richer version of equality [that] is more complex than one focused purely on the distribution of material resources’ (p. 16) and the priceless statement that: ‘Like many other countries, Britain has experienced an unwinding of the postwar compression of market inequalities, and its tax and benefit system has had to work increasingly hard to reduce disparities in wealth and income. Fiscal constraints will limit the scope for post-tax redistribution in the years ahead, while tendencies towards greater wealth inequality may intensify (Piketty, 2014)’. This goes on for almost three hundred pages.

Crisis, what crisis?
In a jurisdiction that taxes huge incomes and accumulations of wealth as lightly as the United Kingdom, talk of fiscal constraints and the limited scope for post-tax redistribution is, to put it politely, nonsense. I prefer a stronger term, but Fuse probably doesn’t. The imperative of eliminating the deficit cannot be ignored, but as George Monbiot recently pointed out, on the revenue side the options include financial transactions taxes, wealth taxes and ‘a progressively banded council tax’. The most straightforward option is a return to much higher marginal tax rates on the personal incomes of the ultra-wealthy, which were the norm in many countries until quite recently. Thomas Piketty and his long-time collaborator Emmanuel Saez have themselves suggested this. (All these observations are also relevant to the proliferation of nonsense about the crisis of financial sustainability supposedly facing the NHS, now being regurgitated even by people who should know better.) On the expenditure side, massive welfare programmes for the propertied and the arms traders like HS2 and Trident replacement could be rethought.  

None of this would matter much – the IPPR report could be dismissed as an uninformed and unfortunate reprise of the discredited Third Way – except that the report apparently will shape much of the Labour Party’s agenda for 2015, and if elected thereafter. In other words, it represents the current limit of permissible official discourse, what one might call the frontier of political possibility for reducing inequality, and the message is clear: too bad, it can’t be done.

A week is a long time in politics, and the location of the frontier could change – not least in response to spirited advocacy for considering public finance and its equity implications as a public health issue. In the absence of such change, Johan Mackenbach’s gloomy 2010 conclusion that ‘reducing health inequalities is currently beyond our means’ will turn out to have been spot-on. We must be very clear, in private and in public, about the implications: the best that can be hoped for is a reduction in the pace at which health inequalities are growing, and even that is uncertain. Harsh words, but the times demand them. To quote Bob Dylan, ‘let us not talk falsely now, because the hour is getting late’.

All views expressed are exclusively those of the author.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

52 weeks in public health research, part 26

Posted by Lynne Forrest and Jean Adams

So, week 26. That's half way. We haven't missed a week and there's been a full complement of four pictures each and every week. People, we are doing great. Only 26 weeks to go!

From Lynne Forrest: this is my family Saturday food shopping. I think it demonstrates the current confusion around healthy eating perfectly. The trolley contains fruit and muesli (good), fruit juice (used to be good but now the sugar is a concern), butter and cheese (used to be bad but fat is now potentially rehabilitated), as well as crisps, biscuits and pizza (definitely bad, and I'm clearly letting the public health side down here, but as they're from Marks and Spencer it's good quality bad food – does that make it any better?!)

From Jean Adams: My great uncle died recently. Although I'd never met him, I found myself tasked with finding his birth certificate in order to register his death. After looking absolutely everywhere else in his flat for it, I final flung open the kitchen cupboards in despair thinking maybe there was a secret stash of important documents under the bread. This is what greeted me: Morrison's saver's tinned soup, mushy peas, custard and fruit. I wasn't quite sure whether to laugh or cry. I finally found the birth certificate in a shared cupboard in the hallway of his apartment building.

From Jean Adams: Yeah, I didn't really find this funny. Yeah, I get that it's hilarious that 'pushy health types' like me don't even have a sense of humour. Yeah, I enjoyed a bag of crisps on the train with a cup of tea - what of it?

From Jean Adams: this supermarket convenience store isn't near a school. But this is some pretty heavy store-front alcohol marketing I'd say.

-------------------

Just to remind you:

Each Thursday of 2014 we’ll try and post around four pictures on the Fuse blog that capture our weeks in public health research, from the awe-inspiring to the everyday and mundane. Given that more of the latter than the former exists in my life, I foresee problems compiling 208 images worth posting on my own. So this is going to have to be a group project. Send me an image (or images) with a sentence or two describing what aspect of your week in public health research they sum up and I’ll post them as soon as I can. You don’t have to send four together – we can mix and match images from different people in the same week.

Normal rules apply: images you made yourself are best; if you use someone else’s image please check you’re allowed to first; if anyone’s identifiable in an image, make sure they’re happy for it to be posted; nothing rude; nothing that breaks research confidentiality etc.