The central focus of this special issue of the European Journal of Social Quality is exploring and understanding the utility, relevance and operationalisation of the Theory of Social Quality for public health policy and practice. In keeping with the aim of this special issue, the authors work with the Theory of Social Quality and make attempts to ground it in the reality of public health practice and policy. However, the Editorial Board stress that in the future papers will be published which discuss, critique and provide counter-arguments to this theory, in the hope of providing extra theoretical and empirical depth. In so doing, we intend to develop the journal as a place for critical debate and discussion.
Developing a Framework for the Twenty-First Century
A 'Social Systems Theory' Analysis in/of Medicine
Given the centrality of 'trust' in both the Theory of Social Quality and as a central motif of life in late modernity, this paper focuses attention on public (mist)trust in social systems and the potential ramifications of engagement with medical services, in addition to feelings of social exclusion and disembeddedness. Using data from a qualitative study of lay perceptions of local primary health care services, the paper reveals the complex and often contradictory ways in which trust is won, developed and lost. In addition, mistrust in local general practitioners (GPs) was found to be a factor of mistrust in a variety of social systems, organisations and institutions of government, rather than solely related to mistrust of either the GPs or the medical system. Nevertheless, there was not a widespread abandonment of the use of GPs or Western medicine, which may partly be explained by the perceived dependence of these people these people on the medical system. Overall, generalised mistrust existed at both inter-personal and systems-based levels and was levied at a variety of social systems and institutions of governance – mistrust was a pervading dimension of life in this community.
Theoretical and Experiential Reflections from the Development and Implementation of a Public Health Programme in the UK
Paul Ward, Paul Redgrave, and Cathy Read
The main purpose of this short paper is to provide reflections on the potential to operationalise the Theory of Social Quality within public health and also on its utility for both public health policy and practice. In addition, we outline the inter-relationships between the theory of social quality and other areas of social theory and social policy. We do not attempt to provide a wide ranging or in-depth critique of social quality as it applies across the board in public health. Rather, we wish to provide an outline of a public health programme (or set of integrated interventions) which is currently running in a location in the UK (called Fit for the Future), and show how the different domains inherent within social quality may be operationalised.
Samantha B. Meyer, Paul R. Ward, and Raymond K. H. Chan
It gives us great pleasure to introduce this special issue of the International Journal of Social Quality. This special issue features empirical papers from Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. The data presented in this special issue originate from a large cross-cultural research project investigating social quality across six Asia-Pacific societies: Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.
Findings from a National Survey
Samantha B. Meyer, Tini C. N. Luong, Paul R. Ward, George Tsourtos, and Tiffany K. Gill
Trust has been identified as an indicator within Social Quality theory. As an important component of social quality, trust has become increasingly important in modern society because literature suggests that trust in a number of democratic countries is declining. Modern technologies and specialties are often beyond the understanding of lay individuals and thus, the need for trusting relations between lay individuals and organizations/individuals has grown. The purpose of the study was to examine the extent to which Australians (dis)trust individuals and organizations/institutions. A national postal survey was conducted with 1,044 respondents recruited using the electronic white pages directory. Findings from multivariate analyses suggest that income, age, sex, and health status are associated with trust in groups of individuals and trust in organizations/institutions. The findings highlight populations where trust needs to be (re)built. Future government policy and practice should utilize these findings as a means of facilitating social quality.
Trust During Pandemic Uncertainty—A Qualitative Study of Midlife Women in South Australia
Paul R. Ward, Belinda Lunnay, Kristen Foley, Samantha B. Meyer, Jessica Thomas, Ian Olver, and Emma R. Miller
Government responses to COVID-19 have dramatically altered the social quality of daily circumstances. Consequently, theoretical questions about social cohesion require recalibration as we explore new models of social quality. Central to this article is trust, one of the fundamental tenets of social cohesion. We present data from interviews with 40 women in midlife (45–64 years) regarding their everyday experiences of “life in lockdown” during the pandemic. Key themes focus on women's (dis)trust in individuals (e.g., politicians, public health experts, family, themselves) and systems (e.g., politics, medicine, the media). This study provides insights into the differential impact of the pandemic in shaping public trust and hence social cohesion—in authority, institutions, and “each other”—with important lessons for how future efforts can rebuild trust in post-pandemic times.
Paul Bissell, Denis Bouget, Steven Dhondt, Ota de Leonardis, Peter R. A. Oeij, Cathy Read, Paul Redgrave, Peter Taylor-Gooby, Philippe Tessier, Johan Van de Kerckhove, Paul Ward, and Noortje M. Wiezer
Notes on contributors