Thursday, February 21, 2013

Searcher - Health Disparities by Race and Class: Why Both Matter

Pertinent to this week's discussion on racial health disparities is an article Health Disparities by Race and Class: Why Both Matter. To dive deeper into the underlying causes of health disparities, Kawachi, Daniels, and Robinson analyze the two related but distinct concepts of race and class. They examine three theories revolving around racial disparities in health (Kawachi 343)

1. Racial disparities are reflective of biological and genetic differences
2. Racial disparities are confounded by socioeconomic class
3. Racial and class disparities exist independently 

The first theory examines a molecular rooting that leads to increased cases of hypertension and diabetes in African Americans. However, I completely agree with Kawachi that biology cannot simply be it. Science is unable to explain the fact that blacks living Africa are not subject to the same increased risks as blacks living in the United States. Thus, like Dresser et al. postulated, there must be a socioeconomic pressure. This brings us to the second theory which focuses on how race and class are proponents of one another. The downfall with this looking at solely this theory is that many of the racial-class groupings made are erroneous assumptions. Rather than grouping blacks into a single class defined by their race, it has actually been shown that lower class blacks have more in common with lower class whites than with middle class blacks (Kawachi 345). Emphasized in the third theory is the importance of studying the two concepts simultaneously in order to understand all faces of health disparities. The ignorance of race being a proxy for class must be left behind in order for all realms of racial disparities in health to be understood.

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