Health Inequalities: What do we know about them? How to address them? How to strengthen action on them?

2019 edition

Lucinda Cash-Gibson

Background: Globally there is ever growing interest in health inequalities – i.e. avoidable systematic differences in the health status of a society – and with this interest there has been an increasing volume of research over the past few decades which identifies that these inequalities exist between and within societies at all levels (i.e. neighbourhoods, regions and countries).

Emphasis has been placed on the need to strengthen the production and use of research on this topic, so as to improve national capacities to act to address these inequalities. Yet there is evidence to suggest that inequalities may also exist with the global health inequalities research field itself. Greater understanding of national capacities to produce research on health inequalities is vital to: i) strengthen these research capacities; ii) strengthen the evidence base on this topic; and ii) identify relevant entry points for interventions that aim to work towards achieving health equity.

Methods: The main aims of this PhD thesis are two-fold: i) to analyse research capacities to address health inequalities, and ii) to establish whether inequalities exist within this research field itself and if so in which measures.

The research purpose will be met through the application of mixed methods and transdisciplinary approaches, and will include: i) bibliometric analysis of the global research production in this field; ii) development of a novel conceptual framework on national research systems, capacities and overall process to produce research on health inequalities, and iii) comparative explanatory case studies to examine specific aspects of research capacities necessary to address health inequalities, in different global contexts.

Expected results: i) to provide evidence that demonstrates whether inequalities exist within this research field itself or not and if so in which measures; ii) to provide evidence to strengthen in-depth understanding of national research capacities and the research process on health inequalities; iii) to develop guiding frameworks for researchers and decision-makers to use to develop comprehensive assessments of national research systems, research capacities and the research production process on health inequalities; iv) to provide evidence to assist to establish entry points for interventions aiming to strengthen action to address health inequalities, and v) to propose future research questions related to this broad area of interest. All of which can contribute to work towards achieving health equity.