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A sociological analysis of an area-based health initiative: a vehicle for social change?This thesis explores the implementation of an area-based health improvement initiative in the north west of England called Target Wellbeing. In the decades before Target Wellbeing was commissioned in 2007, health inequalities between people living in different areas of the UK had been widening. ABIs were identified by the Labour Government as a key tool for improving the health and wellbeing of residents in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and addressing inequalities in health. ABIs such as this have been well evaluated but there remains no firm evidence about the ability of such initiatives to improve health or to reduce health inequalities. In addition to the problems associated with evaluation, the processes through which ABIs might be used to influence change are not well understood and the value of using area-based services to improve health has been taken for granted. There is little understanding about the processes through which service provider partnerships might develop and limited knowledge about the processes through which residents might develop relations with providers. The key aim of this research was to examine the social processes through which ABIs develop over time. Using a case study approach, the research examined one Target Wellbeing programme as a social figuration of interdependent people. Ethnographic methods, including documentary analysis, non-participant observation and interviews, were used to explore the processes and networks that mediated the planned public health development. The study also drew on relevant quantitative data to describe changes over time. Ideas from figurational sociology were used as sensitising concepts in the development of a substantive theory about the processes through which ABIs develop. The study developed theoretical insight into processes of joint working that helps to explain why, in the context in which services are commissioned and performance managed, provider co-ordination is unlikely to be implemented as planned. It also provided a more sociologically adequate account of the ways in which relations between residents and providers were influenced by the history of relations in the town. Changes to residents’ relations with other residents and providers in the town influenced a greater sense of control over their circumstances. These findings demonstrate that, in relation to public health policy and practice, ABIs might more usefully be conceptualised as a series of interrelated processes that might be used to establish the preconditions for influencing change among residents. However, the study showed that interventions targeted at a small part of much wider networks of interconnected people are unlikely to influence sustained changes for residents in deprived areas.