Social Science and Health Service Delivery

What drives health policy, health decisions, and health spending? More often than not, suggests Malcolm Grant, the chair of NHS England, the drivers are technology and work in the life sciences and medical sciences. But what drives many health outcomes? Again, more often than not, it’s behavior, whether by the individual or a serving practitioner.

That insight underlies a new initiative from the United Kingdom’s Campaign for Social Science titled Health of People, a follow-up to the campaign’s influential 2015 initiative, the Business of People.  Both People-powered  projects demonstrate the impact and the influence, both current and potential, of social science in the public sphere. A report on the latest initiative’s findings, The Health of People: How the social sciences can improve population health, will be released on April 5 with Grant delivering the keynote address.

The short video below, “Social Science and health service delivery,” outlines some of the reasons why the campaign, with the support of SAGE Publishing, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the British Psychological Society, Cancer Research UK, the Society for the Study of Addiction, and Wellcome Trust embarked on this project. While its backers hope their message reaches government officials and policymakers from the PM’s office down to the local council, they  expect every segment of society will be touched by the recommendations in the report.

Grant says at least 8 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product goes toward healthcare, something he makes clear in the video that he sees less as a burden and more an investment in the future. Despite that substantial outlay, notes Susan Michie, chair of the Health of People project, the investment in healthcare, prevention and social care is being “massively squeezed,” and so the same amount of money need to do more for the public weal.

“We can get so far with biomedical investment,” she says, “ but that investment is wasted if we don’t so the social science research to show how do we get people to adhere to this expensive medication or accept these expensive medications. “

Social scientists, armed with evidence and with theory, can provide real relief, argues Dr. Tim Chadborn, the lead researcher into behavioral insights at Public Health England, “We can increase the efficiency of what we can do [through] better design of our interventions, our services, our policies, so that’s where I think the behavioral sciences and a better understanding of human behavior can help.”

“This report is long overdue, actually,” says Grant, “and in my view will do quite a bit to change thinking around the role of social sciences in health care.”


The release event for the Health of People report is at 6pm Wednesday, April  5 at Nesta, 58 Victoria Embankment, London. Please contact Daniela Puska to apply for a space.

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