Green hope


Public health and sociology...academic disciplines focusing on despair.
Can we re-focus on how to enable hope, happiness and human flourishing?

Wednesday 8 November 2023 | 6pm-7pm | Social Sciences Lecture Theatre, UWA


Paul Ward is a sociologist who has undertaken research in public health for close to 30 years. Both of his disciplines have been accused of focusing predominantly on negative, deficits-based aspects of life (and death). While despair, misery and anger are certainly important and help understand systems of inequity; it means that potentially emancipatory and empowering emotions are ignored. Paul understands the need to focus on issues such as inequity, discrimination and alienation so that we can work out ways to counter their effects on marginalised groups. However, a balanced focus on 'positive' emotions such as happiness and hope may help us to develop new ways to enable human flourishing in currently marginalised groups (a key task set by Greek Philosophers but variably dealt with throughout history).

In this talk, Paul will use data from an ARC Discovery Project on alcohol use by midlife women in different social classes to explore both hope and happiness. Rather than taking a naïve Pollyanna approach, he will show how both hope and happiness are structured by social class, thereby improving human flourishing in social class groups that have constrained access to resources and relations of capital.

Professor Paul Ward (PhD, MA, BA (Hons)) is Professor of Public Health and Director, Research Centre for Public Health, Equity and Human Flourishing, Torrens University, Australia. Paul is a social scientist with a background in medical sociology and qualitative research. Paul's main research interests are around lay and professional perceptions, knowledge and understandings of health, healthcare, medicines, risk and trust. For this work, Paul undertakes research on contemporary public health issues, such as cancer screening, childhood immunisations, food safety, HIV prevention, alcohol consumption and equity of access to healthcare services. He is mostly interested in improving health and wellbeing to vulnerable and marginalised population groups. With over 340 publications, 50 PhD completions and substantial competitive funding, Paul has made a substantial contribution to public health in Australia and internationally.