Dr Paul Crawshaw
For Dr Paul Crawshaw risk and uncertainty is the key to understanding the world around us.
Whether it is natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes, or our own health and well-being, Dr Crawshaw, Director of the Social Futures Institute, believes we all use risk calculation to predict our own futures.
‘My interest is in what this means and increasingly understanding individuals and populations in terms of risk profiles and what the implications are for health research and public health practice.’
‘Risk calculation can be viewed in all kinds of different ways. We could be talking about cataclysmic events such as the earthquake in Japan or the hurricane in New Orleans - things that are beyond our control in our everyday lives. This can be something quite shocking to us because increasingly in modern society we expect to be able to control things around us and to manage uncertainty and risk. We see from cataclysmic events that this is not always the case.’
But, there is another side to the sociology of risk that is concerned with how our diet, lifestyle and exercise regimes are used as a way to try and predict our futures and our future selves.
‘The constant imperatives we get to look after our health and well-being and to regulate our bodies, our exercise, the foods we eat, our use of tobacco and alcohol – these things are all about risk, our behaviours and the potential they have for causing us harm in the future. That’s where the cross-over really comes in with the sociology of health and illness.’
the sociology of risk
‘My own area of interest in terms of research is in medical sociology and specifically risk, health governance and public health. I have particular interest in the sociology of risk which, most broadly, is concerned with how we understand contemporary social life increasingly in terms of risk and uncertainty. This is a shift from more traditional forms of social theory that have looked at more obvious social structures such as class as a means of understanding the social world.
‘Risk is a broader concept which allows us to examine how social relationships and how we understand society is often as much based upon understandings of risk and uncertainty and the potential that gives us as social scientists to more completely understand the world around us.’
addressing individual behaviours
It is Dr Crawshaw’s belief that the route to improving health and reducing health inequalities lies within addressing the wider issue of inequality rather than individual behaviours towards health.
‘The overall aim of my personal research is to give more in-depth understanding of inequality and how inequality manifests itself within modern societies. It looks at how we can begin to develop more coherent strategies to address those issues, rather than resorting to solutions like addressing individual behaviours, getting people to take more responsibility for their own health.
‘That is increasingly the way a lot of public health work is engineered – to get people to think more about what they do or don’t do in terms of being physically active and eating healthy. I personally don’t see that as a route to improving health or reducing health inequalities locally, nationally or internationally. What those strategies don’t do is actually give people the resources to take more control of their own health and well-being. I think the aim of my own research is to continue to highlight the disjuncture there is between individual behaviours and why there are social problems.’
the Social Futures Institute
Dr Crawshaw came to work at Teesside University as a Research Assistant in 1998 and is now Assistant Dean of the School of Social Sciences & Law. He also recently become Director of the Social Futures Institute (Sofi)
‘The main purpose of Sofi is to provide a hub for all of the research activity that’s going on in the School of Social Sciences & Law – whether that be funded research, scholarship activity or publishing. Sofi aims to pull all of that together under the broad theme of society.
‘My role as Director of Sofi is to provide leadership for research for the School and also for colleagues outside the School and to liaise directly with other institutes to ensure that what we are doing is producing excellent research of the highest standard which is recognised both nationally and internationally.
‘The satisfaction really comes from being part of local, national and international networks who are working towards the same ends. Our work is really about partnerships on a whole host of levels. What we hope to achieve is to develop work which has a direct impact and goes towards achieving our wider goals.’
research at Teesside
‘I think research is an absolutely vital part of the environment here at Teesside University. We have a very strong reputation for research and that is reflected in all kinds of ways.
‘The research done by all of our academic colleagues feeds directly into the teaching that we provide. It’s so important for academics to be up to date in their fields and recognised as people who are contributing to generating knowledge in their own area. That is why we can provide courses that are unique in their content and that reflect our own specialist areas of interest.’
‘I’m from the Teesside area and have lived here, on and off, all my life. I’m married with two young children and I think it’s a great place to raise a family. I hope to continuing living here and working at Teesside University long in to the future.’
The research done by all of our academic colleagues feeds directly into the teaching that we provide.