Émilie Counil

INED researcher studies social inequalities in health

(Interview conducted in April 2019)

What are your research avenues?

© Émilie Counil

I study social inequalities in health; specifically, the role of occupational and environmental determinants in the construction of those inequalities. While some determinants are relatively well known and are included in public policy design—such as use of the national health care system and following recommendations with regard to smoking—others are much less visible. Health in the workplace and environmental health are intertwined research issues: plastic, for example, not only affects the health of the workers who handle and transform it but also of consumers who use it. The fact is that a categorical approach has often been used, thereby generating fragmented, partial knowledge. These are multifaceted phenomena. “Occupational risk” can refer to noise pollution as well as psychosocial risks. Despite dense scientific production, it is difficult to put together a global image.

You trained as an epidemiologist and arrived at INED in September 2018. What research projects will you be working on?

In epidemiology we examine facts factor by factor—a phase often thought of as essential to establishing relevant causal links—but there are also several limitations to the discipline. Combining epidemiology with demography and sociology offers different perspectives on the processes at work. I am currently pursuing research on social inequalities as they pertain to cancer in connection with work and the environment. The idea is to widen the scope of this research to other health problems. Being at INED enables me not only to adopt a multidisciplinary perspective but also to access national-scale data that provides additional information, including information on how people fit together their private and work lives, which is essential for understanding social inequalities in health, particularly gender-based inequalities.

Constructing bridges between different research areas will lead to better knowledge of how health inequalities are constructed, and help up develop finer-grained indicators.