Since the current government came to power there has been a renewed interest in health inequalities. In the research community, health inequalities have formed a focus of interest in a variety of disciplines, including economics, epidemiology, geography, philosophy, public health and sociology, among many others.
Despite so much work undertaken within each of the various disciplines, communication between researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds has often been lacking. Yet the potential to learn from and help each other is immense.
For example, philosophers can provide the ethical arguments that are necessary for deciding which inequalities are inequitable.
Epidemiologists can offer evidence on the fundamental causes for, and the extent of, inequalities in health. Economists can provide skills in developing the most cost-effective ways by which to narrow unacceptable health inequalities. Policy-makers and practitioners, who act as knowledge-brokers between the worlds of research and practice and who may not fit neatly into a particular disciplinary category, can offer advice on which policy proposals might be practicable - and which might not. There is clearly the potential, in theory at least, for fruitful collaboration between the various interested parties.
In an attempt to transform this theoretical potential into practice, a website initiative, the UK Health Equity Network (HEN), has been set up. HEN's objectives are to provide a useful web-based information resource for all those interested in inequalities in health, to provide a mailbase forum for the exchange of information, ideas and opinions, and to harness the energy and enthusiasm of people from a wide range of backgrounds. HEN does not adopt any particular political view; it encourages the dissemination of information from across the political spectrum.
The HEN website can be found at www.ukhen.org.uk, where details on joining the HEN directory and website can be found. We hope that by harnessing collaboration, HEN will contribute towards keeping the issue of health inequality on the public policy agenda.
Adam Oliver, Office of Health Economics Richard Cookson, University of East Anglia David McDaid, LSE Health