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Studying health inequalitiesAn applied approach$
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Jonathan Wistow, Tim Blackman, David Byrne, and Gerald Wistow

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781447305286

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447305286.001.0001

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(p.1) One Introduction
Studying health inequalities

Jonathan Wistow

Tim Blackman

David Byrne

Gerald Wistow

Policy Press

Health inequalities roots are embedded in the deep social structures of modern societies, which have implications for understanding and remedying them. Burawoy’s notions of ‘policy sociology’ (a concern with informing and promoting interventions) and ‘critical sociology’ (contextualising policies and interventions in terms of broader systemic and structural forces) have important implications for understanding and tackling such a complex and persistent social problem as health inequalities. In other words policy and practices and broader social determinants of health must both be addressed to narrow inequalities in health outcomes. This chapter introduces the concept of complex causation and applies this to the non-linear interactions that exist between multiple causes of health inequalities. By applying complexity theory to governance systems an epistemological approach is defined that helps to address the ontology of health inequalities by moving beyond traditional ‘public administration’ framings of the role of public health in tackling health inequalities.

Keywords:   social inequalities, social gradient in health, marmot review, causation, public health, critical and policy sociology

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