This report is very welcome and timely. The contributions of modern science and technology to the quality of modern healthcare are everywhere visible. They include non-invasive imaging, minimalist surgery and new anaesthetics, stents and statins, genetic testing and new techniques and treatments for cancers. There is much more to come as we head into the era of personalised medicine in which diagnostics and treatments are moulded with much greater accuracy around the individual.
Less obvious, but equally as important, has been the contribution of the social sciences, as evidenced by the examples in this report. Healthcare is enormously expensive. Relatively few nations have even a basic model of universal healthcare coverage that provides equity of access to an entire population, let alone with the NHS promise of being free at the point of clinical need. And no such nation has a model that is economically sustainable well into the future, given demographic changes and rising costs, as science enables us to perform life-saving procedures that were previously impossible, and as public expectations rise accordingly. Across all of these domains lie the social sciences.
More importantly for healthcare systems across the world is the improvement of population health, primarily through the prevention of ill-health, but also through shifting presentation, diagnosis and treatment further upstream, so that healthy lives are prolonged and healthcare becomes more than simply a patch and repair service for acute and chronic conditions.
This report proposes a number of steps towards a more coherent and focused approach in linking the social and behavioural sciences to these ends, and is to be warmly welcomed and applauded. It’s a strong case and there is an urgent need.
Sir Malcolm Grant CBE FAcSS
Chair, NHS England
The Campaign for Social Science was set up in 2011 to inform public policy, build coalitions and engage in measured advocacy. It sprang from the Academy of Social Sciences, which now has a fellowship of around 1,100 eminent academics and practitioners across universities, business, government and civil society. 42 learned societies are also members, representing over 90,000 social scientists in all walks of life.
In 2015, ahead of the last general election, we published The Business of People, to highlight the contributions of the social sciences to the myriad economic, social and environmental challenges which confront the UK and the wider world.
This successor report – The Health of People – represents a timely intervention in policy and public debates about the health and wellbeing of our society. From transforming health services to influencing health-related behaviours, the report makes clear that too much of the potential of social science still lies untapped. And it makes a set of clear recommendations to improve the provision, transmission and uptake of research evidence in ways that can make tangible improvements to population health.
I would like to extend my warmest thanks to those who have devoted time to the project over the past year, especially to Professor Susan Michie FAcSS, who expended considerable time and energy in expertly steering the report through to completion, and the members of her Working Group, as well as to our Review Group, whose experience and insights provided a valuable reality check on our conclusions. Let me also thank Sharon Witherspoon MBE FAcSS and Daniela Puska of the Campaign team, and Professor Jon Glasby FAcSS, a member of our Board, all of whom made important contributions to the drafting of the report and management of the project.
Finally, we are grateful to Ziyad Marar and colleagues at SAGE Publishing for their ongoing partnership and for publishing the report; and to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), British Psychological Society, Cancer Research UK, Nesta, Society for the Study of Addiction, and Wellcome Trust for their generous support.
We are in a period of transition, both within the NHS and wider health system, and across UK universities and research. Reports like this, and the wider efforts of the Campaign to demonstrate how social science can help to meet our shared priorities, have never been more urgently required.
Professor James Wilsdon FAcSS
Chair, Campaign for Social Science