Newcastle University Academic Track Fellowships NUAcT

Mwenza Blell

Dr Mwenza Blell

I'm a biosocial medical anthropologist and I'm currently working on research projects which address to the ways that health data are being talked about, collected, shared, used, marketed, and managed in new ways. This includes data from electronic health and social care records, from wearable technologies, mobile phones, social media, and genomic and other omic data. Because I work with both quantitative (biological anthropological, epidemiological) and qualitative (social anthropological) methods and have been involved in research with public health-related aims as well as work which is critical of public health initiatives, I'm able to look at health data from more than one angle. I can understand the scientific side of health data usage as a user of such data and to evaluate claims about what insights bigger 'real world' data can deliver from a scientific point of view. In addition, I can consider a bigger picture view that takes in society and understand that while health can be considered a good thing to promote, people's experiences and views about data surveillance and health care systems really vary and in many places there are health inequalities along various axes, geographic, ethnic, gender, class, etc. As an ethnographer, my work makes possible a very thorough consideration of important aspects of the broader socio-cultural, historical, and political context in which health data and healthcare systems are situated.

I am currently collaborating with people with expertise in feminist and queer bioethics in the UK and Finland to help me think about the ethics of health data and health care systems. My interest in the complex ethical principle of justice drives me to think about health care and health data from the perspectives of those who might be least well-served by the systems we have now and the ones which are being built and, most importantly, to think about what it would take to make these systems more just. I am also collaborating with artists from Culture Lab to use art to evoke ethical deliberation about aspects of health data-driven technological development. The artwork will be aiming to reach and influence both experts and the general public as NHS patients.