Psa.ac.ukSubmitted to PSA Conference 2016 Yasmin M. Khodary - the British University in Egypt Is the "Good" Good Enough for Decision Makers?
Well-being Indices Informing Public Policies and Decisions in UK
For too long, philosophers, thinkers and human beings have been preoccupied with searching for the ‘Good life'. However, as the world changes, different priorities appeared on the top of political agendas, with considerations and goals different to ‘Good life'. Clearly, many national policies and decisions are assessed using cost-benefit and economic analyses. These analyses, however, cannot be considered the best technique to identify what is good for the society or achieve ‘Good life'. The UK is one of very few countries that developed a national well-being framework that measures dimensions that are important for ‘Good life'. The national well-being reflects many dimensions of people's lives and goals, and their link to sustainability and economy. Like any set of indicators and assessments, well-being data and analyses can be used to inform policy and decision-making. The purpose of this paper is to assess the extent to which the well-being framework/index succeed to inform public policies and decisions in the UK in order to conclude whether or not the well-being index or the ‘Good' was good enough for decision makers in UK. Public policies and decisions informed by national well-being data have many advantages. Informed by national well-being data, policymakers become more aware and able to target needy areas or needy social groups, which score the least in the well-being index. This paper provides an in-depth analysis of the different policies and decisions in UK to determine to which extent they were informed by the data of the well-being index. After the introduction, the paper will include a conceptual framework explaining the different types of well-being indices and how they demonstrate the ‘Good'. In addition it will provide qualitative analysis to the impact of the well-being index on informing different and multiple decisions in the UK. At last, the paper will contribute to a better understanding of what is the ‘Good' in our contemporary society using the well-being perspective and to which degree this ‘Good' influence policies and decisions in UK. Submitted to PSA Conference 2016 Yasmin M. Khodary - the British University in Egypt Is the "Good" Good Enough for Decision Makers?
Well-being Indices Informing Public Policies and Decisions in UK
For too long, philosophers, thinkers and human beings have been preoccupied with searching for the ‘Good life'. Governments, on the other hand, have been more preoccupied with achieving economic growth and higher rates of GDP. However, governments' economic growth priorities which appeared on the top of political agendas do not necessarily conform to what societies perceive as a ‘Good life'. In addition, the national policies and decisions started to be assessed using cost-benefit and economic analyses, thus, underemphasizing the assessment or measurement of what people presume is most important for them and what for their ‘Good life'. The cost-benefit and economic analyses, which were associated with pursuing better economic performance, cannot be considered the best technique to identify what is good for the society or achieve ‘Good life'. Apparently, the political agendas and the measurement of political performance reflected the governments' priorities which were not necessarily the same as the society's priorities of ‘Good life'. United Kingdom is one of very few countries that developed a national well-being framework to measure dimensions deemed to be important for ‘Good life'. Public policies and decisions informed by national well-being data have many advantages. Informed by national well-being data, policymakers become more aware and able to target needy areas or needy social groups, which score the least in the well-being index. This paper provides an in-depth analysis of the different policies and decisions in UK to determine to which extent they were informed by the data of the well-being index. In that sense, the paper will contribute to a better understanding of Submitted to PSA Conference 2016 Yasmin M. Khodary - the British University in Egypt what is the ‘Good' in our contemporary society using the well-being perspective and to which degree this ‘Good' influence policies and decisions in UK. Well-being: Conceptualization and Measurement
Like any other concept in social sciences, there is no agreed upon definition for ‘well-being'. As a complex concept, well-being combines together what may constitute the individuals' optimal experience and functioning. Current research on well-being was initially derived from two main perspectives.1 The first one is the hedonic approach, which focuses on happiness, satisfaction with life, more positive affects and less negative affects and defines well-being in terms of attaining pleasures and avoiding pain (Bradburn, 1969; Diener & Suh, 1997; Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999; Kahneman, Diener, & Schwarz, 1999, Allin, 2007). The second one is the eudemonic approach, which focuses on meaning, human development and self-realization and defines well-being in terms of the degree to which a person is fully functioning (Rogers, 1961; Ryff, 1989; Waterman, 1993; The New Economic Foundation). Within the parameters of the hedonic approach, Bradburn (1969) emphasized the importance of psychological wellbeing or ‘happiness' which reflects the excess of positive affective over negative affect one might have.2 Similarly, Diener and Suh (1997) highlighted the cognitive sense of life satisfaction, pleasant affect, and unpleasant affect as three factors determining well- being.3 As a result, Allin (2007) finds that happiness, life satisfaction and quality of life, can be used interchangeably to refer to well-being.4 1 McAllister, F. (2012), Wellbeing Concepts and Challenges, the Sustainable Development Research Network 2 Bradburn, N. (1969). The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago: Aldine. 3 Diener, E., & Suh, E. (1997). Measuring quality of life: Economic, social, and subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research, 40 (1–2), 189–216. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1006859511756. 4 Allin P. (2007) Measuring Societal Wellbeing. Economic and Labour Market Review, 1:10. Submitted to PSA Conference 2016 Yasmin M. Khodary - the British University in Egypt On the other hand, Rogers (1961)5 and Ryff (1989) 6, who both follow the eudemonic approach, highlighted positive psychological functioning and human development. They pointed out autonomy, positive relationships, purposeful life; realization of potential and self-acceptance as the most important factors constituting well-being. The New Economic Foundation defines well- being as "the dynamic process that gives people a sense of how their lives are going, through the interaction between their circumstances, activities and psychological resources or ‘mental capital'."7 Again the same factors are emphasized in the World Health Organization definition of well-being as one's realization of his various potentials, whether physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual ones. As a result and despite the various meanings of well-being, Dodge et al. (2012) concludes that well-being reflects the quality of people's lives through realization of several factors. These factors can be potentials as per the WHO definition or resources - as per Dodge et al. - which enable individuals to meet the various challenges they meet (e.g. physical or psychological resources).8 Some authors took the definition of well-being a step further to indicate what constitutes the well-being of the whole society not only single individuals. Within this line of authors, Ereaut and Whiting (2008) described well-being as what a group or groups of people collectively agree constitutes their ‘Good Life'.9 These authors believed while elements contributing to the 5 Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 6 Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.119. 7New Economics Foundation (2008). Five ways to well-being. NEF. Retrieved from: http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/entry/five-ways-to-well-being. 8 Dodge, R., Daly, A.P., Huyton, J. & Sanders L. D. (2012) The challenge of defining wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2:3. 9 Ereat, G. and Whiting, R. (2008) What do we mean by ‘wellbeing'? And why might it matter? Linguistic Landscapes/ DCSF. Submitted to PSA Conference 2016 Yasmin M. Khodary - the British University in Egypt individual sense of well-being vary from an individual to another, there are some elements which the society identifies together as paramount for that particular society's well-being.10 Thomas (2009) stated that well-being is "intangible, difficult to define and even harder to measure".11 The national well-being reflects many dimensions of people's lives and goals, and is interlinked with quality of life, happiness, sustainability and economy. Thus, measuring well- being is even harder. Still, there were many attempts by countries and international organizations to measure well-being. Policy makers, scholars and scientists hoped that, like any set of indicators and assessments, well-being data and analyses can be used to inform policy and decision-making. For example, Save the Children has developed their multidimensional tool "the Child Development Index" to monitor countries' performance in relation to the well-being of their children. With this index, Save the Children aimed to ensure that governments are held accountable for the impact their policies and priorities have on their children.12 Well-being remains "complex, multi-faceted construct that has continued to elude researchers' attempts to define and measured" (Pollard & Lee, 2003, p. 60). The purpose of this paper is to explore what constitutes ‘well being' for the British society – as identified by the British Office of National Statistics - and assess the extent to which the well-being framework/index succeeded to inform public policies and decisions in the UK in order to conclude whether or not the well- being index or the ‘Good' was good enough for decision makers in UK. 10 Waldron, S. (2010) Measuring Subjective well-being in the UK. Available at: www.ons.gov.uk. 11 Thomas, J. (2009). Working paper: Current measures and the challenges of measuring children's wellbeing. Newport: Office for National Statistics. Submitted to PSA Conference 2016 Yasmin M. Khodary - the British University in Egypt Public Policy in the UK
According to Richards and Smith, public policy in the recent history of UK has passed through three phases. The first phase, which continued during late 1940s and 1950s, signified the Westminster Model where the government was perceived as the main actor in charge of public policy. The government would decide on any public policy it preferred or deemed suitable and the civil service would, accordingly, draft a relevant legislative bill. Subsequently, the government would approve the bill in the parliament and launch the implementation process. Despite that it consulted with some interest groups and pressure groups, it was the government values and the government image of a good society and good life that was pursued in that phase. A shift towards well-being in UK
In a speech for the UK Prime Minister Cameron delivered in November 2010, PM Cameron emphasized the importance of considering the nation's well-being 11 times. In his speech, PM Cameron stated "I do believe that government has the power to help improve well-being, and I'm not alone in that belief. What's interesting about this whole argument is now how many countries, economists, people and experts are joining in [….] The contention is that just as we can create the climate for business to thrive - by cutting taxes, slashing red tape and so on - so we can create a climate in this country that is more family-friendly and more conducive to the good life"13. Similar to what PM Cameron mentioned in the beginning of his speech, he reiterated near end that "to those who say that all this sounds like a distraction from the serious business of government, I would say that finding out what will really improve lives and acting on it is actually the serious business of government". 13Prime Minister's Office (November, 2010), Prime Minister Speech on Wellbeing, Gov.UK. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-on-wellbeing. Submitted to PSA Conference 2016 Yasmin M. Khodary - the British University in Egypt It was also cleat from PM Cameron speech that he was determined to stress the fact that this shift towards emphasizing nation's well-being is a collective shift. This shift is backed by many countries, people, experts, economists and social scientists who developed a new school of thought about a more engaging role for governments in improving people's lives. A new measure, as mentioned by PM Cameron, will "First, it will open up a national debate about what really matters […] And second, this information will help government work out, with evidence, the best ways of trying to help to improve people's well-being". Judging against what PM Cameron had set for the new measure, the next section test the extent to which the government uses the new measure to inform the policy making process in an attempt to improve Well-being in action: Well-being and UK Public Policy
In response to PM Cameron request, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) was tasked to develop national measures of well-being to measure the nation's progress in achieving well- being. The ONS implemented the ‘Measuring National Well-being' (MNW) programme to measure well-being based on a set of objective and subjective measures.14 14 ONS (2011) "Measuring what Matters: National Statistician's Reflections on the National Debate on Measuring National Well-being' www.ons.gov.uk.
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