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Whose health is it anyway? Participation in health

Date: May 3, 2001
Our Ref: 834cairns

Public health experts from throughout the UK will hold a one-day symposium this week to explore how openness and sharing can be increased in public health and health services research.

The University of Aberdeen is hosting the symposium Whose health is it anyway?, which will take place on Friday May 4, from 9.30 to 4.30 pm in King’s College Conference Centre.

Distinguished speakers from throughout the UK will analyse key issues under the Chairmanship of Sir Iain Chalmers, Director of the UK Cochrane Centre, Oxford, which is the UK focus for international collaboration on improving health care.

Professor Smithone, one of the workshop leaders, said: “This symposium will explore significant themes within the public health and health services arena about whether we are serious about helping people to participate in their health and health care, including influencing the various agendas. Already, the symposium is fully booked, with 130 people from all over the UK due to attend.”

He added: “Sometimes the views of specific interest groups may not be in the interests of the public as a whole, but who is expressing the interests of the community in general or does public health attempt to second guess this?”  Examples include hospital closures, fluoridation, infectious diseases control, where individual and public interest can be at odds.  He will also concentrate on how public health can better solicit public participation and also be better at explaining its policies.

The ethics of participation: setting the principles, by Dr Kenneth Boyd, Senior Lecturer in Medical Ethics, Geriatric Medicine, Department of Clinical & Surgical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, will set out the ethical and expected relationship between people and their health care system and professionals.

Mr Nick Partridge, OBE, Chief Executive, Terence Higgins Trust, will follow and describe the issues and barriers for people trying to influence the medical research agenda.

The morning’s programme will continue with Professor Alan Maynard, Professor of Health Economics, University of York, and Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, who will comment on the contrasts between the apparent priorities of health policy and of the public his talk HTA and health policy: do implied values reflect public interest?

The final morning topic will be The medical model and public health practice by Dr Sarah Stewart-Brown, Director, Health Services Research Unit, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford.  She will illustrate the difficulty facing doctors in changing from a clinical role of taking responsibility to the public health approach of sharing and enabling people to become involved in health issues that affect them.

The afternoon workshops will debate the implications of participation for public health and health services research.

Professor David Hunter, Professor of Health Policy & Management, University of Durham Business School, will lead a discussion on the rationale for including the public’s voice in the public health research agenda and how it can be done.  In particular, how a better shared understanding can be built in the longer term?

Elizabeth Russell, Professor of Social Medicine, Department of Public Health, University of Aberdeen, will lead a discussion on outcomes relevant in evaluating medical and preventive interventions. In particular, how good is current research at incorporating and measuring outcomes from patients’ perspectives and how can this be improved?
Dr Vikki Entwistle, Programme Director, Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, will lead a group discussion to probe the ways in which public participation might influence the dissemination and use made of research findings and affect public health outcomes.

Professor Alan Williams, Professor of Economics, Centre for Health Economics, University of York, will lead a group discussion on why there is tension between the values and priorities of individuals and health systems.  Is it due to the “democratic deficit” or to a gap between people’s views in their role as citizens and the views of the same people when patients?

The final group discussion will be led by Professor Cairns Smith, Head of Department, Public Health, University of Aberdeen.  He will examine ways of increasing the involvement of members of the public in improving the public’s health and how public health can better demonstrate its public accountability.


Issued by Public Relations Office, External Relations, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen, Tel: (01224) 272014  Fax: (01224) 272086.

University Press Office on telephone +44 (0)1224-273778 or email