Accessibility statement

Re-engineering Health Policy Research for Fairer Decisions and Better Health: the EQUIPOL project 

Living in a deprived area or occupying a lower position in society can cost years of healthy life, and the cumulative toll for society loads intolerable pressure onto public services. The determinants of health inequality are structural (imbalances in wealth, human capital and political power), behavioural (social differences in health-related behaviours) and organizational (inconsistent access to health, education and welfare services). Greater awareness and understanding of these determinants has lifted health equity to prominence on policy agendas across the world, but progress in tackling the problem has been slow, impeded by a lack of effective and coordinated action across all three fronts. Consequently, health inequalities have persisted, continuing to diminish lives and blight communities.

Although the scientific community has made vital contributions in documenting health inequalities and identifying the underlying causes, it has frequently failed to support the development of effective policy solutions because of limitations in approach and methodology. Health policy research frequently focuses on a mythical ‘average’ citizen and ignores social distributions. This provides valuable information on effectiveness and efficiency but skews decision-making away from tackling health inequalities, because policy makers are not provided with comprehensive analyses of who gains and who loses as a result of their decisions. Attempts to change the behaviour of citizens and service providers have often failed to address differences in the context of the targeted populations, and many well intentioned public health interventions have worsened inequalities. 

Research Programme

The EQUIPOL project will equip researchers with the necessary tools for measuring equity impacts, and provide policy makers with vital information on who gains and who loses as a result of their decisions. We will develop rigorous methods for measuring the equity impacts of health and social policy interventions, and will use these methods to assess the effectiveness of major public health and healthcare initiatives. This will improve our understanding of the structural, behavioural and organizational barriers to more equitable health outcomes. Our ultimate aim is to enable fairer health policy decisions, leading to better health across society.

Our programme brings together expertise in economics, epidemiology, population-level informatics and ethics across two integrated studies. Study 1 aims to develop methodologies for quantifying the health equity impacts of policies and to feed them back into policy-making, and Study 2 applies these methodologies to investigate ways of addressing health inequalities by changing physician behaviour.


Funder(s)  The Wellcome Trust
Start Date: September 2017
Expiry Date: August 2022