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Comparative perspectives on social inequalities in life and death: an interdisciplinary conference

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Lucy Lloyd.

This conference is organised by St John’s College Reading Group on Health Inequalities

With Robert Seyfarth, Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, USA ; Stephen Suomi, Recent Chief of the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology in NICHD , Bethesda, USA ; and Rebecca Sear, Head of Department of Population Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London.

Who is this conference for?

This conference is for everyone with an interest in inequalities in human health and what can be learned from the study of the biology, behaviour and social interactions of humans and other social mammals.

We welcome students and academic colleagues especially from across the University including Sociology, Zoology, Geography, Anthropology, Epidemiology and the Natural Sciences.

With its focus on the adaptive value of social relationships and care giving, the conference will be of interest to researchers on the early life origins of healthy lives and interventions to optimise them, and to practitioners in public health and primary care and maternity, infant care and social care.

The conference brings together eminent researchers who studied under the benevolent supervision of Professor Robert Hinde and will be of great interest to those who also benefitted from his teaching.

What is this conference about?

The purpose of this conference is to widen our understanding of inequalities in human health to inform future enabling action. We aim to do this by consideration of relevant processes among other social mammals. We will consider particularly social, behavioural and biological mechanisms within social groups and their impact on thriving, survival and reproductive success.

Health inequalities persist, and are currently widening, in the UK and globally. There is strong evidence that position in the social hierarchy in humans is closely related to disease risk. The result is a social gradient in health — the worse health the lower the social position.

Social hierarchies, sustained across generations, are also widespread among other mammals and there is increasing evidence of the mechanisms by which they influence survival and reproductive success in these groups. We are particularly interested in the adaptive value of social relationships and how, within social groups, behaviour of individuals can vary between co-operative and competitive. A central form of cooperative behaviour is care giving and we will discuss this behaviour which is a powerful predictor of later social and health outcomes in humans and other social mammals.

What does the conference cover?

The programme moves from the consideration of the persistence of inequalities in human health, exploring the relevance of social context and mechanisms that sustain social position across both time and generations, to a consideration of fitness in other social mammals and aspects of resilience in unstable environments. In the afternoon, we take examples of free-living baboons in Botswana, and captive colonies of macaques in Bethesda, USA to consider social and epigenetic mechanisms maintaining social hierarchy and relationships across generations.

Find out more about this conference and register here

This talk is part of the Primary Care series.

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