Communicating the Impacts of Austerity and Inequality

Austerity is a prevalent theme of current socio-political and economical culture but the impact on public health, though serious, are difficult for the general public to grasp. This project set out to translate the consequences of ongoing austerity to the public.

Birmingham austerity large


Research background  How do we make a fairer city logo image credit Jim Rogers  

The long-term negative psychological and societal impacts of austerity (low or negative public investment) are well established in the academic sociological and epidemiological literature (e.g. Barr et al., 2015) culminating in recent reports that austerity is responsible for the halt in improved life expectancy over the past ten years (Marmot, 2020). Yet there are many psychological barriers which make the disparate and multi-causal way in which austerity impacts health particularly difficult for the public to grasp. This project is designed to develop resources and insights to aid communication of the societal and health implications of austerity.

This initiative was derived from the work of the local Make My City Fair initiative. This began with a workshop in June 2019 bringing together key players from across Birmingham to consider the impact of austerity on Birmingham. One of the key outcomes identified at that event was the need to challenge and re-frame the existing narratives surrounding austerity in Birmingham.

Research aims

The aim of the research was to co-create visual aids designed to simply and effectively convey the diffuse negative societal and psychological impacts of austerity and inequality as well as the positive societal and psychological impacts of early life investment.

How did you carry out the research?

This is a qualitative project employing focus group discussions with key stakeholders in the city of Birmingham as well as members of the general public.

Projected outcomes 

This project is designed to enable the creation of visual aids designed to convey and facilitate understanding of the diffuse societal and health impacts of low public investment. It will also provide an initial testbed for the effectiveness of these aids.

Additional links: British Medical Journal (2020) article on the impact of austerity in England can be found here:

Image credit: Jim Rogers