As Britain ages amid austerity, more and more people will suffer from long-term health conditions. Obesity and diabetes are on the rise. Mental health problems are widespread. Tobacco and addictions are well-known killers. Each condition brings high costs, both financial and social. Meanwhile, budgets for the NHS, social care and public health are being squeezed. Despite this potential crisis, new opportunities are emerging to support both healthcare providers and the population. Advances in understanding will change how behaviour can prevent and mitigate ill health. Our approach to health must become more ‘social’. The Health of People – a report compiled by the Campaign for Social Sciences – investigates a range of ways to cut the cost of health interventions and to improve patient outcomes as well as ways of preventing people becoming patients. The report includes arguments for and case studies in favour of a more rounded, social science informed view of health and wellbeing. It concludes with an invitation to clinicians and policy makers to think outside the box of ‘care’ about the causes and prevention of ill health.
Social Science and Data
[Page 42]Policy organisations, such as the King’s Fund, and research funders, such as the Wellcome Trust, the Health Foundation, the ESRC and MRC, along with health professionals and clinical and social scientists have been increasingly vocal in calling attention to the need for more strategic understanding of health – how outcomes relate both to the health services and to wider social and environmental factors – and have pointed out that this requires making better use of data.127 So too have the Department of Health, NHS England and the Local Government Association, among others.128
For much social and healthcare research, data are analogous to the scientist’s laboratory. This is recognised in initiatives such as the Health Foundation’s research programme on ...