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Palgrave Macmillan

Beyond Evidence Based Policy in Public Health

The Interplay of Ideas

ISBN 9781137026576
Publication Date October 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Palgrave Studies in Science, Knowledge and Policy

This book explores the complex relationship between public health research and policy, employing tobacco control and health inequalities in the UK as contrasting case studies. It draws on extensive qualitative data to demonstrate why it makes more sense to focus on ideas, rather than evidence, as the unit of analysis when studying public health knowledge exchange. The book goes on to outline a four-genre typology of ideas, inspired by the work of Max Weber and Bruno Latour, which helps explain both the disjuncture between health inequalities research and policy and the recent spate of policy activity in tobacco control. It argues that focusing on research-informed ideas usefully draws attention to the centrality of values, politics and advocacy for public health debates.

Katherine Smith is Reader in the Global Public Health Unit, University of Edinburgh, UK. Her research interests include health inequalities, policy change and the influence of private and third sector organisations on policy.

1. The Fluctuating Fortunes of 'Evidence-Based Policy'
2. Evidence-Informed Policy in Public Health
3. The Power of Ideas (over evidence)
4. Institutionalised Ideas and Policy Facilitators
5. Critical/Charismatic Ideas and Advocates
6. Chameleonic Ideas and Flexian Policy Actors
7. Institutional Amnesia and the Rise of Public Health Knowledge Brokers
8. Politics and Advocacy in Public Health – The Way Forward


"Katherine Smith offers an insightful analysis of evidence-based policy, providing an interesting typology with which to deepen our exploration of the relationship between research and policy . . . a rare books which captures the reader, inviting self-reflection upon how one can engage with research either as an academic, an advocate, or policymaker, and their own research." - LSE Review of Books
"Research reports often end with recommendations for what 'policy makers' should do. Clearly, linking research and policy (and practice) is vital, but we often seem to over-simplify the relationships between them. This recently published book by Katherine Smith is a fascinating read because it tackles this issue using two case studies which are at the heart of public health work: health inequalities and tobacco control . . . Smith does an admirable job of showing the significance of ideas and politics whilst upholding the principle that research has value for policy . . . an accessible, evidence-based discussion of the complexities of the two-way relationship between research and policy." - DECIPHer
"What we have here is an excellent source of evidence about the relationship between research evidence and policymaking in the field of public health. This book undermines any suggestion that we live in an age of evidencebased policymaking, and indeed raises questions about the character and viability of that ideal." - Professor Martin Hammersley, Sociology of Health and Illness
"This is a rich and sophisticated analysis of the overlapping worlds of evidence creation, evidence mediation and policy making. Seemingly effortlessly, the two fine-grained case studies in all their singularity are related to other cases and contexts, and to the previous empirical and conceptual literature. There is no doubt that this book contributes immensely to improvingunderstanding of the nature of the contribution of evidence in public health policy in the UK in the early twenty-first century and, because of its theoretical contribution, more widely." - Nick Mays, Journal of Social Policy
'Smith argues that what matters for public health policy is less scientific evidence and much more a more complex set of ideas. Based on detailed case studies of UK tobacco and health inequality policy, Smith offers a richly textured alternative account of what matters for policy making. This excellent book is part of a small but growing body of political science research on public health policy that draws on contemporary theories of policy change and governance more generally.' - Patrick Fafard, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
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