GREDS-EMCONET is the acronym for the Research Group on Health Inequalities - Employment Conditions Network, located within the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF). The group is also part of the Public Policy Center, an existing partnership between the UPF and The Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA)
GREDS is made up of a network of researchers in the public health field that includes a diverse group of public health professionals, some of whom are physicians, biologists, epidemiologists, anthropologists, nurses, economists, sociologists, political scientists, and statisticians, among others. We work together for the common goal of bringing to light, understanding, and changing what is being called the worst epidemic of the 21st century: health inequalities generated by social determinants of health. In other words, we want to identify and help change the political and social factors that influence the health of a population and public health inequality. EMCONET is an international network for Employment Conditions study, created by the World Health Organization (WHO) within the framework of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH) created in 2004. GREDS-EMCONET was the only research group in Spain that participated in the CSDH.
At GREDS, we consider health to be not only the absence of illness or a clear state of perceived health, but rather, as defined by Dr. Jordi Gol, health is, “A way of living with autonomy, solidarity, and joy”. Gol proposed that the definition go beyond “well-being” with the intent to find the “wellness of being”, noting that a patient’s health is not achieved simply by healing an organ or restoring an altered physiological function. Instead, it involves the psychosocial process of fighting to live a freer, more participatory, and fuller life. Gol’s definition complements the People’s Charter for Health, which was implemented in Bangladesh in 2000 and notes that, “Health is a social, economic, and political issue and, above all, a fundamental human right”, and “health for everyone means they should challenge the interests of those in power, tackle globalization and that political and economic priorities must change drastically”. Given that we are social animals, inseparable from the environment and social context in which we live, we are also aware that we can't live healthily on an ever more inhabitable Earth, under the terrifying socio-ecological crisis of a profoundly unjust, toxic and alienating neoliberal capitalism.
At GREDS, we understand that health isn’t comprised of something personal and isolated but needs to be thought of as a social phenomenon that is unequally expressed among social classes, genders, and different populations and territories. Making this possible, demands a more democratic society where power and social and economic resources are distributed much more equally and fairly. The authoritarian, hierarchical, and undemocratic systems, typical under capitalism, either don’t allow or greatly hinder social equity, real freedom of the majority, and autonomous development of individuals and collectives, fostering inequalities and social anomy, which leads to a lack of opportunities, alienation, empty mindedness and, ultimately, “dead” lives. We feel akin to everyone who, consciously or subconsciously, suffers illness, injury, and toxic abuse to their bodies and souls from a sociopolitical origin; abuse that should, and could, be avoided. We support the political, social, and union struggles, like the courageous and persistent fight of the Marea Blanca, organized and mobilized to attain a well funded and well managed integrated National Health System where public health, primary care, and high quality public social health services for everyone are essential to improving wellbeing, quality of life, and civic equity.
We feel that it is necessary to scrutinize the limited and reductionist view of today’s hegemonic healthcare system; one that sees people under a narrow biomedical and technological paradigm that is becoming more and more dehumanized, medicalized, and commodified. From that perspective, human beings are treated like simple biological machines that should be repaired and who can yield economic profits. Psycho-somatic, labor, environmental, sociocultural, and political factors tend to be forgotten, which diminishes one’s health and contributes to illness and premature death.
For GREDS, a good part of scientific research today, that often seems rational, ideologically neutral, and evidence-based in itself, is limited or misleading when we assess the knowledge, public health policies and health equity. However, GREDS is also critical of pseudo-scientific visions or widespread bluntly unscientific techniques that, under an irrational eye, abandon good scientific and socio-cultural knowledge to appoint an essentialist vision that is simultaneously uncritical and untrue. Beyond “scientistic” or “post-modern” visions, GREDS wants to approach the truth by supporting open, systemic, and integrated transdisciplinary scientific research that highlights the many existing mechanisms of power, domination and social control, as well as the bio-psycho-social factors that squander the health of society’s most impoverished and vulnerable populations.