Institute of Health & Society

Staff Profile

Professor Ted Schrecker

Professor of Global Health Policy

Background

Introduction

I am a political scientist by background, and moved from Canada to take up a position at Durham University in June, 2013 before transferring to Newcastle University with colleagues from Durham's School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health.  My research interests focus on the political economy of health inequalities, neoliberal globalisation, and issues at the interface of science, ethics, law and public policy. (See Research tab for more detail.)  Earlier in my working life, I spent many years involved with environmental policy and law as a legislative researcher, academic and consultant. Until my publications are uploaded to Newcastle's web site, a selection are available here.

Roles and responsibilities

Member, Independent Panel on Global Governance for Health

Co-editor, Journal of Public Health

Recent previous positions

2013-2017: Professor of Global Health Policy, Durham University

2012-2013: Clinical Scientist, Bruyere Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario

2011-2014: Adjunct Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Ottawa

2005-2011: Scientist (Associate Professor rank), Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine and Principal Scientist, Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa

2003-2004:  Research Associate, Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit, University of Saskatchewan

2002-2003: Associate Scientist, Lawson Health Research Institute, London, Ontario

2000-2002:  Full-time consultant and Associate Member, Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, McGill University

Research

Basic principles guiding teaching and research

Political economy of health

'[A]nalysis of causes of disease distribution requires attention to the political and economic structures, processes and power relationships that produce societal patterns of health, disease, adn wellbeing via shaping the conditions in which people live and work' (Nancy Krieger, 2011; emphasis in original).

Speaking truth about power (a play on Wildavsky's familiar description of the task of the policy analyst)

A fine illustration:‘[U]nequal distribution of health-damaging experiences is not in any sense a “natural” phenomenon but is the result of a toxic combination of poor social policies and programmes, unfair economic arrangements, and bad politics’ (Commission on Social Determinants of Health, 2008).

Major current commitments

Global Health in a Neoliberal Era: Critical Perspectives (under contract to Polity Press)

Handbook of Global Health Politics (co-edited with K.S. Mohindra, under contract to Edward Elgar)

'Extracting resources, compromising health: The political economy of extractive industries and health' (with A-E. Birn and others), in preparation for Independent Panel on Global Governance for Health

‘“Neoliberal epidemics” and the political economy of health’, invited article, special issue on Global Health (ed. S.K. Sell and O. Williams), Review of International Political Economy

Major themes going forward

Neoliberal epidemics

Clare Bambra’s and my book How Politics Makes Us Sick: Neoliberal Epidemics (2015) was reviewed as [b]oth sophisticated and accessible to non-specialist audiences …. Schrecker and Bambra marshal solid, cross-national evidence and clear arguments to make a compelling and incriminatory case against neoliberalism and the epidemics it has engendered’ in The Lancet.  Key research directions:

  • Advancing understanding of public finance as a public health issue (perhaps the most important take-home message of all) by way of
  • Continued description of the destructive consequences of neoliberal policies for health.
  • Comparative multidisciplinary research on the politics of support for redistributive policies that can reduce health inequalities, and on
  • Why some settings are ‘resource-scarce’ and others not.
  • Relentlessly challenging ‘lifestyle drift’ in health policy, research and intervention design.
The politics of evidence

Four decades of scholarship on standards of proof in environmental policy and law have had surprisingly little influence in other areas of population health research. So we need first of all to ask

  • How much evidence is enough for acting on social determinants of health and health inequalities (the standard of proof issue)? What are relevant guiding principles? Who should decide?

Some specific topics:

  • Regulating endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), particularly in the European Union, as a case study in the treatment of science in public policy
  • In a broader frame of reference, agenda-setting in global health (for example with regard to the global noncommunicable disease policy agenda, before and after the 2011 UN Summit on NCDs) 
Rethinking what is 'global' about global health

Globalisation scholar William Robinson has foregrounded the need to shift from 'territorial' to 'social cartography' in understanding development, as production and finance are reorganised across multiple national borders.  I have previously written about this; specific research opportunities include:

  • Comparative, multidisciplinary study of deindustrialisation as a manifestation of neoliberal globalisation, and its long-term and intergenerational health consequences.
Population health in a new, darker (post-democratic?) future

The overarching theme here is captured in David Rieff's 1993 description of how globalisation had transformed Los Angeles that is now a quarter-century old: ‘After all, nobody got up one balmy afternoon on the Capitoline Hill sometime in the fifth century and said that the Roman empire was over and the Dark Ages had begun’.  In other words, population health must now come to grips with the potential existence of multiple tipping points. Key trends that require exploration in terms of their implications for population health:

  • The shift from public to private power associated with rising economic inequality and ultra-wealth; transnational corporations; financialisation, tax avoidance and global financial flows; philanthro-capitalism.
  • Global health in the Anthropocene age, with climate change being only one of multiple challenges.
  • How to understand and react to the drift towards what Fareed Zakaria has called ‘illiberal democracy’ and the spread of authoritarianism. 
  • What can be learned about the challenges of reducing health inequalities in other jurisdictions from the prospect of a poorer, meaner, more unequal and inward-looking post-Brexit United Kingdom.
  • Reconstructing lost political vocabularies: exploring the consequences of the near-disappearance from academic discourse of the concepts of state terror and corporate crime.

I am delighted to hear from colleagues and prospective students interested in these themes and challenges.


Teaching

Postgraduate teaching

2017-18:  Module lead, HSC8056/8057 (Global Health); contribution to HSC8047 (Health and Society)

Lead, Global Health strand, M.Sc. Global Health and M.Res. Global Health

Supervision

I advise two Ph.D. students from Durham, both of whom are nearing completion

A reflection on teaching

Catharine MacKinnon, whose work has been an intellectual inspiration for a long time, wrote that: 'A platform and a period of time and listeners who choose to be there creates a threshold of mortality. If you never say anything else to them (you might not) and if you die right afterward (you could), what would have been worth this time?'

Publications