Race and health

Race and health refers to how being identified with a specific race influences health. Race is a complex concept that changes across time and space and that depends on both self-identification and social recognition.[1] In the study of race and health, scientists organize people in racial categories depending on different factors such as: phenotype, ancestry, social identity, genetic makeup and lived experience. “Race” and ethnicity often remain undifferentiated in health research.[2][3]

Differences in health status, health outcomes, life expectancy, and many other indicators of health in different racial and ethnic groups are well documented.[4] Some individuals in certain racial groups receive less care, have less access to resources, and live shorter lives in general.[5] Epidemiological data indicates that racial groups are unequally affected by diseases, in terms or morbidity and mortality.[6] These health differences between racial groups create racial health disparities.[7]

Health disparities are defined as “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations”.[8] Health disparities are intrinsically related to the “historical and current unequal distribution of social, political, economic and environmental resources".[8]

Social, political, economic, environmental, cultural and biological factors constitute determinants of health.[9] The relation between race and health has been studied from a multidisciplinary perspective, paying attention to how racism influence health disparities and how environmental factors and physiological factors respond to each other and to genetics.[10]

Racial health disparities

Health disparities refer to gaps in the quality of health and health care across racial and ethnic groups.[11] The US Health Resources and Services Administration defines health disparities as "population-specific differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes, or access to health care".[12] Health is measured through variables such as life expectancy and incidence of diseases.[13]

How researchers view race is often linked to how we address racial disparities because the national administrator of health uses these research findings to implement policies.[14]

For more information, see the Health equity page's section on "Ethnic and racial disparities".

Difference between health inequity and health disparities

Although Individuals from different environmental, continental, socioeconomic, and racial groups etc. have different levels of health, yet not all of these differences are always categorized or defined as health disparities. Some researchers separate definitions of  health inequality from health disparity by preventability. Health inequalities are often categorized as being unavoidable i.e due to age, while preventable unfair health outcomes are categorized as health inequities. These are seen as preventable because they are usually associated with income, education, race, ethnicity, gender, and more.[15]