The Health, Place and Society research theme is the largest concentration of health geographers in the UK. The theme brings together research in two distinctive areas: the socio-environmental determinants of health and the geographies of biosciences, biopolititics and biosecurity. The theme’s research in each of these areas has had a significant and continuing impact on research, policy and practice in and outside of the discipline.
The Healthy Environments Research Programme (HERP) is focused on understanding the effect of the social, physical, and built environment on health and health inequalities. Research has pioneered the use of ‘natural’ experiments in geography and public health in order to establish the causal effect of neighbourhood and environmental interventions on health and health behaviours (Steve Cummins); employed rarely used qualitative ‘realist’ approaches to demonstrate the dynamic, relational and highly context-specific nature of interactions between people, place and systems in determining health (Tim Brown, Steve Cummins); revealed insights and lessons for health policy and practice by examining historical and contemporary discourses around the natural environment, food security and public health experimentation in urban settings (Tim Brown, Beth Greenhough, Steve Cummins); developed leading edge Bayesian and spatial statistical approaches to the analysis of small area health data, and played a pivotal role in methodological development of these techniques internationally (Peter Congdon).
Geographies of bioscience, biopolitics and biosecurity: work in this area coalesces around the theme of ‘Bodies Across Borders’, showing how processes of globalisation have facilitated the movement of people and medical and healthcare resources across national and international borders, and the social, political and cultural implications of these movements. Work focuses on three key areas: the intersection between healthcare and migration, including work on reproductive tourism (Bronwyn Parry) and the health experiences of migrants within the UK (Isabel Dyck); biopolitics and biosecurity, including a concern with the vital geographies that define who is able to secure basic resources for living healthy and fulfilling lives (Simon Reid-Henry) as well as critical engagements with recent developments in bio-surveillance (Bronwyn Parry) and contemporary biopolitical forms of governance (Beth Greenhough, Tim Brown); and geographies of bioscience and biotechnology, including work which explores the ways human biological materials have become part of a global resource economy, involving the collection of biological materials and informational proxies (Beth Greenhough, Bronwyn Parry), the role of humans and animals as ‘experimental subjects’ in medical and scientific research (Beth Greenhough), the reworking of ideas of human difference through new forms of genetic knowledge (Beth Greenhough, Catherine Nash) and a recent project exploring how the visual arts can communicate complex ethical issues in science to a wider public (Bronwyn Parry).
Members of the theme play a key role in the College’s new interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Health (CUH).