Politics and Advocacy in Public Health — A Way Forward

  • Katherine Smith
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Science, Knowledge and Policy book series (SKP)


This book began (in Chapters 1 and 2) by considering some of the ongoing debates about the relationship between research and policy, particularly (in Chapter 2) in the context of public health. It highlighted an apparently unresolved tension between rational, instrumental conceptualisations of the relationship (which are often employed within public health) and those based on politics, democracy, ideologies and values (which are widely employed within political science). Building on the growing academic interest in the role of ideas in policymaking (e.g. Béland 2005; Blyth 1997; Stevens 2007), the book argued that focusing on ‘ideas’ rather than ‘evidence’ might provide one means of overcoming this tension, for the notion of ‘research-informed ideas’ allows space to acknowledge normative, political and empirical dimensions of public health debates. In addition, the concept of ‘research-informed ideas’ better acknowledges the malleable nature of knowledge which is translated as it moves between actors and across contexts. Overall, the book argues that it is both empirically accurate and conceptually useful to think of the relationship between public health research and policy as an ‘interplay of ideas’ (Rein 1980). This draws attention to the fact policy informs research, as well as the other way around, and to the fact that both research and policy tend to be shaped by broad, overarching ideas that may, in some contexts, be taken for granted (discourses, frames, paradigms or, in the terms of this book, ‘institutionalised ideas’).


Policy Change Health Inequality Tobacco Control Public Health Research Knowledge Broker 
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Copyright information

© Katherine Smith 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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