Avoidable, unfair and systematic: EUniWell students study health inequalities at the University of Birmingham

07/06/2023 | by Jo Hawley-Woodall | Participation Students

In the last week of June 2023, students from six EUniWell institutions gathered at the University of Birmingham to learn about health inequalities. Subject specialists led sessions on topics from the determinants of inequalities to policy approaches in order to address them, enabling participants to broaden their understanding of this highly relevant topic.

A group picture of the participants of the Health Inequalities Summer School in Birmingham
A group picture of the participants working during the Health Inequalities Summer School in Birmingham
A group picture of the participants of the Health Inequalities Summer School in Birmingham

Health inequalities affect us all and are one of the most important challenges in European public health. This is why the University of Birmingham chose this highly relevant topic for the 2023 EUniWell health and well-being summer school. The course brought together students, academics and experts, all of whom benefited from the opportunity to learn from each other, exchange ideas and expertise, and build lasting connections to support their future work. 

Students from a range of relevant disciplines and career stages engaged in talks and group activities. Academics from Birmingham, Cologne, Florence, Leiden, Linnaeus, Murcia, Nantes, and Semmelweis Universities shared their research findings on topics from food insecurity to digital health. In addition, participants heard from a university of Birmingham student who is also CEO of a mental health charity, from Birmingham City Council, and the Director of National Health Service (NHS) England’s Healthcare Inequalities Improvement Programme. 

Their feedback confirms that the experience was positive. When asked what they liked about the course, students identified “exchanging thoughts, ideas, knowledge and experience with a multidisciplinary group”, “the different approaches and points of view”, and “the community that formed over the week”. 

One of their highlights was the session run by Professor Bola Owolabi, Director of the National Healthcare Inequalities Improvement Programme at NHS England (Core20Plus5). She explained the distinction between health inequalities and healthcare inequalities, which relate to access, experience, and outcomes. 

Students also had the privilege of hearing a first-hand account of a young person’s experience of mental health services. ZeZe Sohawon, founder and CEO of Emotion Dysregulation in Autism, a mental health charity for autistic young people, talked about her own lived experience and how this has informed the work of her charity. 

Monika Rozanski, Birmingham City Council’s service lead for health inclusion and inequalities, talked about some of the city’s work to take account of lived experience in its responses to health inequalities, including a review of health inequalities amongst Black African and Caribbean communities, and the Birmingham Poverty Truth Commission. She also took part in a panel which reviewed the students’ group task which they completed during the week. All groups engaged enthusiastically with the task, and Monika concluded that, “it has been a great pleasure to meet all of the fantastic students from across Europe and work with the University of Birmingham”.


Watch a summary video of the event.

Further information

Find out more about NHS England’s approach to reducing healthcare inequalities.

Access free NHS England online courses in tackling healthcare inequalities.

Read the report of the Birmingham and Lewisham African and Caribbean Health Inequalities Review (BLACHIR).

Find out more about the Birmingham Poverty Truth Commission.

Read about the work of the charity Emotion Dysregulation in Autism.


For more information on the Health Inequalities in Europe summer school, please contact Jo Hawley-Woodall via euniwell[at]contacts.bham.ac.uk


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