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St John’s Reading Group on Health Inequalities

The St John’s College Reading Group on Health Inequalities was established in 2014 following discussions between Professor Ann Louise Kinmonth (Fellow) and Professor Mike Kelly (Visiting Fellow)  Its purpose is to bring together scholars from a range of disciplines; currently  psychology, sociology, history, neuroscience, biology, epidemiology, primary care, philosophy and health services research, to consider the wider mechanisms by which inequalities in human health arise and are sustained across time and generations. Meeting to discuss papers offered by members or guests, we study the interrelationships between social, biological, behavioural and historical factors and the processes and patterning of mortality and morbidity in populations.

Taking a historical view has emphasised the importance of time and wider events in interpreting the patterning of health. Recent developments in biology, especially epigenetics, together with new understandings in in social neuroscience, suggest that the traditional distinction between the social and the biological may be outdated. The St John’s Group explores the implications of these understandings in the context of health inequalities. In short we observe that in human societies social and historical factors have profound and direct effects on adult health and human biological, psychological and social development. In turn these factors can and do impact on the health of subsequent generations.  The interaction between social and biological factors over time is an inescapable part of the explanation of the patterning of human health.

There is strong evidence that position in the social hierarchy in humans is closely related to health and risk of disease. The result is a social gradient in health—worse health the lower the social position. The question is why; how does social position affect biological pathways to cause disease and how is this sustained across generations?

The Reading Group has reviewed a number of papers and books (which can be found here), and subsequently a number of possible synergies between disciplines have emerged from discussions within the Reading Group.

In 2015-16 the Reading Group was supported by the St Johns College Annual Fund (download the end of year report here) in order to deliver research outputs (which can be found here),  and to encourage closer ties with senior students in St John’s (which can be found here).

This year we are extending are interest beyond human societies  to consider what might be learned from the behaviour of, and the social structures to be found in, communities and groups of social mammals (see Future Plans).

Contact information:

If you wish to find out more about the Reading Group then please contact:

Dr. Natasha Kriznik, Research Associate in the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Researchnmk33@cam.ac.uk

Prof. Ann Louise Kinmonth – alk25@medschl.cam.ac.uk

Prof. Mike Kelly – mk744@medschl.cam.ac.uk

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