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An analysis of English national policy approaches to health inequalities: ‘transforming children and young people’s mental health provision’ and its consultation process

Griffin, Naomi and Wistow, Jonathan and Fairbrother, Hannah and Holding, Eleanor and Sirisena, Mihirini and Powell, Katie and Summerbell, Carolyn (2022) 'An analysis of English national policy approaches to health inequalities: ‘transforming children and young people’s mental health provision’ and its consultation process.', BMC Public Health, 22 (1). p. 1084.


Background A national policy for England, published in 2017, entitled ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’ aimed to address the increasing prevalence mental health problems in children and tackle inequalities. In the context of this policy’s implementation as ongoing and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for appropriate, timely and ongoing national government commitment is vital. Methods A narrative review using a problem representation evaluation [1], we critiqued the policy and related consultation documents using a social determinants of health perspective. We also reviewed wider policy discourses through engaging with stakeholder responses, providing an innovative methodological contribution to scholarship on public health policy and health inequalities. Results We found absences and oversights in relation to inequalities (most notably the lack of acknowledgement that mental health can cause inequalities), access, workforce capacity, and the impacts of cuts and austerity on service provision. We suggest these inadequacies may have been avoided if stakeholder responses to the consultation process had been more meaningfully addressed. We illustrate how ‘problems’ are discursively created through the process of policy development, justified using specific types of evidence, and that this process is politically motivated. Local policy makers have a critical role in translating and adapting national policy for their communities but are constrained by absences and oversights in relation to health inequalities. Conclusions This narrative review illustrates how policy discourse frames and produces ‘problems’, and how the evidence used is selected and justified politically. This review contributes to the existing transdisciplinary field of knowledge about how using methods from political and social science disciplines can reveal new insights when critiquing and influencing policy approaches to health inequalities.

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Date accepted:13 May 2022
Date deposited:19 July 2022
Date of first online publication:31 May 2022
Date first made open access:19 July 2022

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