• From public issues to personal troubles: individualising social inequalities in health within local public health partnerships

      Mead, Rebecca; Thurston, Miranda; Bloyce, Daniel; University of Lancaster; Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences; University of Chester (Taylor and Francis, 2020-05-20)
      This paper explores public health policy implementation through partnership working at the local level by examining how local actors from public health and the wider workforce, make sense of and work on social inequalities in health. An ethnographic case study was used to examine policy implementation in one local strategic partnership in north-west England during a period of significant resource constraint. Semi-structured interviews were the primary method of data generation. Sensitising concepts from figurational sociology were used to develop a theoretical account of how local policy implementation directed at narrowing social inequalities in health tended to give rise to relatively fragmented and short-term services, projects and practices, which focused on lifestyle factors and behaviour change. Theorising partnership work as figurations goes some way to explaining the apparent paradox among participants who expressed a relatively detached appreciation of wider social influences, alongside emotional involvement in their work. This process of individualisation explains how local professionals tended to conceptualise health inequality and the social determinants of health as personal troubles. Individualisation meant that the social reality of working in partnerships on difficult issues was simplified. Thus, any scope for working on the social determinants of health tended to be overlooked. The extent to which this was intentional or a matter of struggling to see opportunities, or a mixture of the two, was difficult to discern. Although the policy landscape has changed, the findings give some insight into understanding how local collaborative processes reproduce local public health work underpinned by lifestyle choices.