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What Is a "Racial Health Disparity"? Five Analytic Traditions.

Authors
  • Chowkwanyun, Merlin1
  • 1 Columbia University.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of health politics, policy and law
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2022
Volume
47
Issue
2
Pages
131–158
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1215/03616878-9517163
PMID: 34522965
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

What exactly is a "racial health disparity"? This article explores five lenses that have been used to answer that question. It contends that racial health disparities have been presented-by researchers both within academia and outside of it-as problems of five varieties: biology, behavior, place, stress, and policy. It also argues that a sixth tradition exploring class-and its connection to race, racism, and health-has been underdeveloped. The author examines each of these conceptions of racial disparities in turn. Baked into each interpretive prism is a set of assumptions about the mechanisms that produce disparities-a story, in other words, about where racial health disparities come from. Discursive boundaries set the parameters for policy debate, determining what is and is not included in proposed solutions. How one sees racial health disparities, then, influences the strategies a society advocates-or ignores-for their elimination. The author ends by briefly discussing problems in the larger research ecosystem that dictate how racial health disparities are studied. Copyright © 2022 by Duke University Press.

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