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Logo of qualsafetyQuality and Safety in Health CareCurrent TOCInstructions for authors
Qual Saf Health Care. 2005 December; 14(6): 398–400.
PMCID: PMC1744099

Tensions in public health policy: patient engagement, evidence-based public health and health inequalities


This paper examines the proposition that there are considerable tensions between key strategies in health policy—namely, evidence-based approaches to population health improvement, reduction of health inequalities, and public and patient engagement—using (1) a critical analysis of the intersection of evidence-based public health, patient and public engagement, and health inequalities policies from a social constructionist perspective and (2) mathematical modelling of paternalistic and shared decision making in the management of hypertension in a random age and sex stratified community sample of residents of south east Northumberland, UK. It is concluded that there may be unintended effects on population health of incongruities in major components of public health policy. Greater public and patient engagement may militate against the disease prevention goals of evidence-based policy, and may better engage sections of the population who already benefit from greater access and better health associated with social status and opportunity, serving to increase inequalities by further marginalising those already suffering from relative exclusion.

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