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Karl Atkin



  • DPhil, The Production of Health and Social Care, University of York
  • BA (Hons) Sociology (CNAA), Class 2i, City of Birmingham Polytechnic

Karl Atkin is a medical sociologist with a background in doing qualitative ethnographic research in multidisciplinary and culturally diverse settings. His work has a particular focus on understanding the social consequences of various long-standing, chronic conditions. This includes exploring how people negotiate illness (and its treatment) and how this experience connects to disabling outcomes.

In November 2015, Karl was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences (FAcSS). He maintains strong links with voluntary and community organisations.

He has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council and various National Institute of Health Research commission panels. He has published widely on the experience of illness; the generation of disability; family care; healthcare in multi-cultural societies, including the operation of institutional racism; and the genetic understanding of disease and its social consequences. This is reflected in his teaching, and he has considerable experience of organising and delivering undergraduate and postgraduate modules.

He is also an experienced doctoral supervisor and would welcome new students with an interest in the social experience of long-standing chronic and disabling conditions, including the role of family care and service support; and health care in multi-cultural societies.

Departmental roles

  • Head of Department, Department of Health Sciences, between (2015 to 2021)

University roles

  • Member of University Equality and Diversity Committee (University Council)



My research interests lie in the sociology of health and illness and in particular the experience of long-standing chronic conditions, including the sociology of disability. I have undertaken research exploring the social consequences of a broad range of conditions, including sickle cell disorders, thalassaemia, encephalitis, thalidomide and autism. This has led to a broader interest in social inequalities and the production of disadvantage for those who experience illness.   

I am an experienced PhD supervisor and my research interests are broad. I would welcome new students, who employ qualitative methods to explore health care in multi-cultural societies, as well as the social experience of long standing chronic and disabling conditions, including the role of family care and service support.

I am currently working on the following research projects including:


Selected publications

Dyson, S., Atkin, K.M., Berghs, M. & Greene, A (2021). On the Possibility of a Disabled Life in Capitalist Ruins: Black Workers with Sickle Cell Disorder in England', Social Science & Medicine.

Atkin, K. M., Madden, M. T., Morris, S. L., Gough, B., & McCambridge, J. (2020). Community pharmacy and public health: preserving professionalism by extending the pharmacy gaze? Sociology of Health and Illness.

Chattoo, S., Atkin, K. M., Craig, G., & Flynn, R. (Eds.) (2019). Understanding 'Race' and Ethnicity: Theory, history, policy and practice. (2nd edition ed.) (Understanding welfare, social issues, policy and practice series). Policy Press.

Berghs, M. J., Atkin, K. M., Hatton, C., & Thomas, C. (2019). Do disabled people need a stronger social model: a social model of human rights? Disability & Society, 34(7-8), 1034-1039.

McFadden, A., Atkin, K. M., Bell, K. J., Jackson, C., Siebelt, L., Gavine, A., Innes, N., Jones, H., Haggi, H., & MacGillivray, S. (2018). Gypsy, Roma and Traveller access to and engagement with health services: a systematic review. European Journal of Public Health, 28(1), 74-81.

Dyson, S. M., Ahmad, W. I. U., & Atkin, K. M. (2016). Narrative as Re-Fusion: Making Sense and Value from Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Trait. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine.

Atkin, K. M., Berghs, M., & Dyson, S. (2015). 'Who's the guy in the room?’: Involving fathers in antenatal care screening for sickle cell disorders. Social Science & Medicine, 128, 212-219.

Dyson, S., Berghs, M., & Atkin, K. M. (2015). ‘Talk to Me. There’s Two of Us’: Fathers and Sickle Cell Screening. Sociology, 50(1), 178-194.

Atkin, K. M., Chattoo, S., & Crawshaw, M. A. (2014). Clinical encounters and culturally competent practice: the challenges of providing cancer and infertility care. Policy and Politics, 42(4), 581-596.

Atkin, K., & Tozer, R. (2014). Personalisation, family relationships and autism: Conceptualising the role of adult siblings. Journal of Social Work, 14(3), 225-242.

External activities


2021: National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Academy and Research Foundation: Artificial intelligence and Racial and Ethnic Inequalities in Health and Care

2021: DHSC/UKRI Global Effort on COVID-19 Health Research Funding Panel

2016 - ongoing: National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Academy: Advanced Fellowships Panel

2018 - onging: Member of Public Health England Advisory Board: Parental involvement in antenatal screening.

2010 - 2016: National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), Public Health Research Board

2005 - 2012: Chair of Public Outreach sub-committee, National Screening Committee (NHS) for Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia

Editorial duties

2014 - ongoing: Managing Editor, Standards of Care for Adults with Sickle Cell Disease (Department of Health/Sickle Cell Society)

2009 - 2015 Managing Editor, Ethnicity and Health (Routledge)

Contact details

Professor Karl Atkin
Department of Sociology LMB/226
University of York
YO10 5GD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 1355