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Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis


Public health researcher from University of Edinburgh visits CHEPA in January

23 Dec 2011

Katherine Smith, a lecturer with the Global Public Health Unit at the University of Edinburgh, will be a visiting scholar with CHEPA in January 2012, and will give the CHEPA monthly seminar on Jan. 18.

Smith’s research interests include processes of knowledge transfer (particularly between research and policy), policies and interventions to tackle health inequalities, and the influence of corporations and advocacy organizations on public health and policies affecting public health.

During her visit at McMaster she plans to learn more about the relationship between health research (particularly public health research) and policy in Canada. She plans to meet with public health researchers, policymakers and those involved in knowledge transfer.

Her seminar entitled The politics of ideas: The complex relationship between research and policy in public health, will be based on a research paper that examines the complex relationship between research and policy, using the interdisciplinary field of health inequalities as a case study.

The paper challenges claims that U.K. policies on health inequalities have been based on evidence. Drawing on an analysis of 42 major policy statements and 61 interviews with individuals involved in health inequalities research and policy, the research findings suggest that ideas about health inequalities that are based on research, but not necessarily on evidence, have travelled into policy.

Smith will explain the crucial difference between evidence and research-based ideas. Once ideas become separated from the evidence on which they were based, they become more malleable and can be transformed as they travel through the process to becoming policy.

Her research indicates that a failure to understand the complexity of the relationship between research and policy in the U.K. has meant that recent efforts to ensure research is ‘policy relevant’ appear to be having an unintentionally conservative impact on research innovation.

The seminar will take place from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in CRL-B119, and all are welcome to attend. For those who can’t be present, remote access to the seminar is available through Elluminate. Click here for details on how to log in to listen to the seminar.

Prior to joining the University of Edinburgh, Smith worked at the University of Bath, where she focused on tobacco industry policy influence in the European Union, and at the University of Durham, where she focused on evaluating policies and interventions intended to reduce health inequalities in the U.K. Her PhD studies at the University of Edinburgh explored the relationship between health inequalities research and policy in Scotland and England.

For more details on Smith’s background, click here. Anyone who would like to arrange a meeting with Smith during her visit can email her directly at

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