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Dr Jonathan Wistow

Associate Professor

Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology
DRMC Co-Director in Qualitative Complexity Science, Evaluation and Health in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health
Co-Director (Qualitative Complexity Science, Evaluation and Health) in the Durham Research Methods Centre
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing


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 also recently had a book published on Levelling Up the UK Economy: The need for transformative change with Luke Telford.  I am now working on research with Durham County Council's Public Health team on the wider determinants of health and am involved in collaborations around the impact of air pollution on brain health, social prescribing and the social determinants of health, and spatial disparities.  With colleagues at Durham we are beginning to develop an agenda around dirsupting place-based social complexities and are seeking collaborators.

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 was appointed as a lecturer in the Department 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


Authored book

Chapter in book

Journal Article


Supervision students