A new research centre focusing on global health inequalities was launched at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) on 23 of October 2017. The objective of the Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research (CHAIN) is to create a global transformation in actionable health inequalities research. Bringing together leading scholars and international organisations and acting as a change agent, it will monitor, explain, and reduce health inequalities in the global North and South.

By Terje A. Eikemo & Mirza Balaj

CHAIN – Guiding Principles

Socio-economic inequalities in health are present in all parts of the world. They contradict accepted values of human rights and manifest themselves from birth. Different pathways for different societies and for different groups within those societies lead to health inequalities. Understanding of the diversity of social drivers to health inequalities in different contexts has defined several key principles that CHAIN has endorsed for the collection, utilization and interpretation health data.

Health inequalities start to manifest themselves from early childhood. Therefore, children are the focal point of the Centre. Data collection and research results will be stratified in the age group 0-18 and will still be collected from birth to old age, in order to understand the role of early life determinants in explaining and reducing health inequalities at later ages. Through our focus on intersectionality, CHAIN will guide data collection and examination of health inequalities according to different measures of social position (i.e. gender, ethnicity, education, class, and income). This approach will provide much-needed insight on the effects of the combination of different advantageous or disadvantageous characteristics of these ‘axes of inequality’ on health. Our global mandate will ensure that data collection and scientific outputs focus on all world-regions (Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific).

CHAIN – Methodological Novelty

CHAIN will advance the current state of monitoring, explaining and reducing health inequalities. With respect to monitoring, CHAIN will build a Global Burden of Health Inequalities data repository with individual level data on inequalities in health by socioeconomic position and their determinants. This will be complemented by a Global Institutional Conditions Database featuring contextual level data of social, economic and epidemiological developments, political conditions, and institutional and public policy indicators globally. CHAIN will therefore be able to explain health inequalities at the individual, national, and global level. With respect to reducing health inequalities, CHAIN will form an international comparative perspective offer new insights from epidemiology, natural policy experiments, systematic reviews and policy analysis techniques into how to reduce the link between socioeconomic status and health. CHAIN will assess not just what works in terms of policy instruments and interventions to reduce health inequalities, but also for whom they work, where they work, and how they work.

CHAIN – Knowledge and Action Coproduction

One of the key aims of the Centre will be to shorten the distance between research, policy and changed practice. A key innovation is that the CHAIN agenda will be determined together with our policy and practice partners. This will ensure that evidence based research has an immediate value and impact on interventions in the field that can improve the well-being of children and their families. This will be achieved through close collaboration between CHAIN`s leading scholars such as Terje Andreas Eikemo (leader of CHAIN), Clare Bambra, and Johan Mackenbach, the main partner UNICEF and several partner organizations: Civita, MSF, EAT Foundation, EuroHealthNet, The Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), the Norwegian Cancer Society, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the National Association for Public Health, and the Red Cross. Together we aim to identify, design, develop and evaluate cross-sectorial programs and policies affecting health inequalities.

For more information visit  www.ntnu.edu/chain

About the Authors

Mirza Balaj began her PhD studies in Sociology of Health at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in 2015. She is a member of the NORFACE project ‘Health inequalities in European welfare states (HiNEWS)’ investigating the contribution of social determinants to health inequalities. Her educational background is on Social Policy and Public Management and completed her advanced studies at the University of Leuven.

Terje Andreas Eikemo is a professor of sociology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). His main research focus has been to explain differences in mental and physical health, chronic diseases and mortality within and between countries in several regions of the world. Eikemo has led several international projects relating to health inequalities, such as the rotating module on the social determinants of health in European Social Survey (2014). Eikemo is the leader of CHAIN and he is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health.

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