Honorary doctorate Trisha Greenhalgh stresses importance of social sciences for innovation in healthcare

Consult op afstand bij huisarts, foto door Studio Oostrum/ANP
Trisha Greenhalgh working at her desk

Professor Trisha Greenhalgh will receive an honorary doctorate for her research into complex innovations in healthcare. The doctorate will be awarded as part of the 108th Dies Natalis of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) on Monday 8 November. This year's theme is Health, Technology & Society.

Trisha Greenhalgh is Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford University. She studied Medical, Social and Political Sciences in Cambridge and Clinical Medicine in Oxford. Greenhalgh obtained her PhD in diabetes care and is also trained as a general practitioner. Due to her practical experience, her research has a strong focus on connecting social and medical sciences. Greenhalgh developed a framework to evaluate more complex innovations in healthcare with a view to sustainable use. The experiences of patients and care providers play an important role and the framework is widely used.

Social sciences are crucial

According to Honorary Supervisor Roland Bal, Professor of Governance and Policy of Health Care at Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM), it is particularly relevant how Greenhalgh manages to involve social science in medical innovations. He observes that many innovations conceived on the drawing board are insufficiently tested against social reality. "To quote fellow medical practitioner Jan Cremer: 'It only gets simple when you realise it's complex'. Greenhalgh's research shows: it is never a simple translation into practice. That may work for pills, but it works poorly for organisational change."

Unexpected impact of eHealth

This is something you see in eHealth solutions, for example, where you also have to listen carefully to the practical experiences of patients and healthcare professionals. The honorary supervisor gives the example of remote monitoring of heart patients. People wearing a box appeared to become more anxious about every change and contacted a care professional more often. "In this case, care is neither better nor cheaper. That social component and those underlying stories is what Greenhalgh consistently calls attention to," he explains.

Roland Bal
Roland Bal

Standing up for care professionals

In addition to her work as a doctor and researcher, Greenhalgh sits on various medical advisory boards both within the UK and the World Health Organisation (WHO). During the coronal pandemic, she advocated the use of face masks and publicly expressed her reservations about Freedom Day, when in the UK almost all coronal measures were lifted despite high infection rates.

In doing so, she always stands up for the interests of healthcare workers, who have come under more pressure because of the pandemic. Bal: "She personifies the important role of care researchers and professionals in the social debate. This also makes her an example for students and researchers in the medical world."

108th Dies Natalis

The honorary doctorate will be awarded on Monday 8 November 2021 during the 108th Dies Natalis of Erasmus University Rotterdam. The theme of the ceremony is Health Technology & Society.

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Professor Trisha Greenhalgh
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