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Dr Jonathan Wistow

Associate Professor

AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology32 Old Elvet: Room 109+44 (0) 191 33 41482
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing 41482


I joined the Department as a Research Fellow in 2007, working on the 'Comparative analysis of how local system factors affect progress tackling health inequalities' research project, having previously combined working as a local government officer with postgraduate research. Since then my research has developed in three fields: health inequalities; climate change adaptation; and post-industrialism and class. In each of these areas I have a strong interest in the application of complexity theory to policy and governance systems and how the political economy functions relative to these. For example, my interest in health inequalities centres on the implications of both methodological and ideological framings for how this issue is understood and addressed. My research in this area focuses on the application of both complexity theory and qualitative comparative analysis to health inequalities and links to broader debates about governance and public policy implementation. 

I recently completed a book called Social Policy, Political Economy and the Social Contract that ties together a range of diverse but related research interests that I have developed throughout my academic career, through employing complexity and social contract theory to understand the trajectory of the political economy and its interrelationship with policy. I am now working on research into the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda alongside ongoing research into health inequalities and the impact of air pollution on brain health.

I previously worked as a researcher on the Built Infrastructure for Older People's Care in Conditions of Climate Change (BIOPICCC) project. This project focused on developing research strategies to help ensure that the infrastructures and systems supporting the health and social care for older people (aged 65 and over) will be sufficiently resilient to withstand harmful impacts of climate change in the future, up to 2050. A key output was the BIOPICCC Toolkit online resources to assist local authorities, partner organisations, and neighbourhood and community groups to undergo the process of cross sectoral local level resilience planning. 

I was a Teaching Fellow in the Department between September 2012 and June 2015, acting as module convenor for the Sociology of Social Exclusion (level 2) and Policy Related Evaluation and Research (Level 4) modules. I also taught the level 3 Urban Studies module in SASS in 2010/11. Since July 2015 I am a lecturer in the School and have added the Social Policy Level 3 and Level 4 modules to my teaching portfolio alongside teaching on the Work and Professions and Health and Place level 3 modules.

Research interests

  • Health inequalities
  • Place-based policy and governance systems
  • Complexity theory
  • Political economy
  • Social contract theory
  • Climate change adaptation and resilience
  • Qualitative comparative analysis

Research groups

  • Health and Social Theory

Research Projects

  • Built Infrastructure for Older People’s Care in Conditions of Climate Change (BIOPICCC)
  • Comparative analysis of local strategies to tackle health inequalities.
  • Extreme events and vulnerable people: Harnessing science to practice

Awarded Grants

  • 2020: Co-imaging health and wellbeing: Developing Participatory Case-Based Computational Modelling(£9468.32 from )
  • 2020: Enabling children and young people's involvement in whole system action to reduce inequalities in the social determinants of health (SPHR/Fuse/WP4)(£159.69 from National Institute for Health Research)
  • 2019: SPHR Children and Young People (CYP) WP1(£55484.92 from National Institute for Health Research)
  • 2018: Effects of climate change on social care delivery(£3162.50 from )
  • 2015: BIOPICCC Toolkit Impact Development(£11049.00 from Epsrc)
  • 2015: Big Local Project Phase 2(£1635.00 from NIHR)
  • 2013: Adaption and resilience to a changing climate coordination network(£7557.00 from Epsrc)
  • 2013: Emergency events and vulnerable people: Harnessing science to practice(£18750.00 from NERC - Natural Environment Research Council)
  • 2010: Children's Services Evaluation(£10000.00 from North East Improvement & Efficiency Partnership)


Authored book

  • Wistow, J (2022). Social Policy, Political Economy and the Social Contract. Policy Press.
  • Wistow, J, Blackman, T, Byrne, D & Wistow, G (2015). Studying Health Inequalities: An Applied Approach. Policy Press.

Chapter in book

  • Oven, K., Wistow, J. & Curtis, S. (2019). Older people and climate change: Vulnerability and resilience to extreme weather in England. In People and climate change: Vulnerability, adaptation and social justice. Reyes Mason, L. & Rigg, J. Oxford University Press. 68-86.

Journal Article


Supervision students