The vulnerability and health research paradox

Monday June 18, 2018

By Sassy Molyneux and Sally Theobald;

Sassy and Sally were part of a rich set of discussions on vulnerability, agency and resilience in a meeting organised by REACH in Oxford in May

Maureen Kelley kicked off the day highlighting an important paradox in health research: on the one hand research can be powerful tool for social justice in ensuring that interventions are evidence based; but on the other, there is need to protect ‘the vulnerable’ and ensure research does not worsen vulnerabilities. Current ethics guidelines do not adequately unpack or address this paradox leading to potential for all children, all women or the very poor/marginalized to be labelled as “vulnerable” and excluded from research. Yet it is these groups for whom evidence-based health interventions are most needed, raising important challenges for social justice in health. Unpacking complex intersections between dignity, vulnerability, agency and abilities in different health research contexts, and researchers’ responsibilities in designing and conducting global health research, is a key aim of the REACH collaboration. Here we share some of our key learning from the meeting:

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