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Research beyond the hospital walls
  1. Helen Roberts1,
  2. Kristin Liabo2
  1. 1 UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, UCL, London, UK
  2. 2 PenCLAHRC Patient and Public Involvement Team, University of Exeter – Saint Lukes Campus, Exeter, Devon, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Helen Roberts, UCL Institute of Child Health, London WC1N 1EH, UK; h.roberts{at}

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Reading widely is not only good for children. Although ‘publish or perish’ has tended to replace ‘read or be dull’ in academic life, reading beyond the clinical literature gives us grown-ups a better understanding of children’s lives and histories as well as our own. This article provides pointers to the kinds of work with something important to say about children’s well-being beyond hospital or clinical settings. The more we understand—as medical education reminds us—that bodies are not just a bunch of organs and that medicine is only one of many determinants of good child health, the more fun it can be to see what we might learn from people on whose shoulders we stand, whatever their discipline.

Earlier articles in this series discuss the imperative to build on what we know and to ask the kinds of questions that children, parents and healthcare professionals would like to see answered. While internet searches and systematic reviews have improved the working lives of many researchers and students working on child health, these tend to under-represent books, work in the grey literature and work from disciplines outside medicine. Although it is a truism that reinventing the wheel is wasteful, there are temptations in medicine to favour a medicine-wheel, drawing only on the medical literature.

We declare a bias. Just as radiologists call for more radiology and pharmacologists for more and better drugs, we, as sociologists, are rather partial to sociology. We include a number of subject areas here, so this is no sociological wheel, but the social sciences predominate.


While many children and parents have good reason to be grateful to bench scientists and clinicians for advances in the diagnosis and treatment of sick children, much of the research that has improved children’s life chances and health has been carried out by engineers, …

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  • Contributors Both authors discussed the content, and HR led on the first draft. Both authors agreed on the final draft.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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