Catherine’s doctoral research explored citizens’ experiences of exchanging knowledge during democratically deliberative means of health policy development. This research brought to an explicit level many factors which can unintentionally disable the citizen’s capacity to exchange knowledge and deliberate in such circumstances. Troubling instances of epistemic injustice were also evident. These findings demonstrate why it is important to pay attention to citizens’ experiences if deliberative means of policy development are to be institutionalised into Australian health policy settings as anything more than simply a promise of their democratic ideal.
Paradoxically, Catherine’s research also highlighted the potential for deliberative practice to create an intersubjective space that facilitates a transformative exchange of knowledge. This was apparent with citizens experiencing such things as improved self-esteem, a greater sense of personal and community empowerment, and increased social capital and health literacy: these factors are known to contribute to people being healthier.
Considering the transformative insights that were seen, Catherine argues that the reciprocal benefits to be derived from deliberative means of health policy development are still underestimated and underdeveloped. With this realisation, a compelling case presents for the establishment of longitudinal research into the benefits to be derived from the use of democratic deliberation, for instance, in relation to raising the public’s health literacy and the circumstances within which maximum benefits might be derived. While further research is required to demonstrate any lasting impact on the citizen’s health and wellbeing, these findings are encouraging and suggest that democratic deliberation offers a powerful, though currently untapped, resource in public health and wellbeing.
Bringing together the insights gained from this research, Catherine has reframed the unintentionally disabling factors discovered, to propose an intentionally enabling approach to the exchange of knowledge and deliberative capacity when deliberative means of policy development are used in health policy settings. Viewed holistically, this research establishes an empirically-grounded, theoretical framework for a more substantively equal, empowering, egalitarian, educative, and epistemically just means of health policy development. It is proposed that this be used as a guide-to-action for both citizens and policy administrators.
These current research interests are complemented by insights gained from Catherine’s background, which includes a Masters in Community and Health Development, working as a research assistant, teaching sociology, and establishing a social research consultancy. Catherine has also practiced as a nurse, midwife, and has run her own naturopathic clinic.
Boswell, J., Settle, C. & Dugdale, A. 2014. Who speaks, and in what voice? The challenge of engaging ‘the public’ in health policy decision making. In Public Management Review. DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2014.943269.
Peer-reviewed unpublished paper:
Settle, C. 2015. Engaging citizens in deliberative mini-publics for health policy development: Democratising health policy? Paper presented at the 2015 Deliberative Democracy Summer School, run by the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra, 16-18 February