Public health implications of 4 decades of neoliberal policy: a qualitative case study from post-industrial west central Scotland

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Abstract

Background

The UK has long had a strong commitment to neoliberal policy, the risks of which for population health are well researched. Within Europe, Scotland demonstrates especially poor health outcomes, much of which is driven by high levels of deprivation, wide inequalities and the persistent impacts of deindustrialisation. The processes through which neoliberalism has contributed to this poor health record are the subject of significant research interest.

Methods

Qualitative case study of a post-industrial town in west central Scotland. Primary data were collected using photovoice (11) and oral history (9) interviews, supplemented by qualitative and quantitative secondary source data.

Results

For those who fared poorly after the initial introduction of neoliberal policy in the 1970s, subsequent policy decisions have served to deepen and entrench negative impacts on the determinants of health. Neoliberalism has constituted a suite of rapidly and concurrently implemented policies, cross-cutting a variety of domains, which have reached into every part of people's lives.

Conclusions

In formerly industrial parts of west central Scotland, policy developments since the 1970s have generated multiple and sustained forms of deprivation. This case study suggests that a turn away from neoliberal policy is required to improve quality of life and health.

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