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Role of social class in racial and ethnic health disparities

M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA, Department of Family Medicine, University of Virginia, Box 800729, Charlottesville, VA 22908, 434.924.1165, mno3p@virginia.edu and Carles Muntaner, MD PhD, Institute for Work and Health, University of Toronto, 481 University Avenue, suite 800, Toronto, ON M5G 2E9, Canada.

African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders are sicker than and dying at a faster rate than whites in the United States. These disparities are reprehensible and have been decried from the White House to physician offices nationwide. In 2000, the U.S. Congress established the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities at the NIH to help spearhead NIH efforts to study the causes of these health disparities. Congress also requested an Institute of Medicine study to assess the extent of racial and ethnic health disparities, evaluate the causes of these disparities, and recommend interventions to eliminate them. Moreover, the federal government?s health plan, Health People 2010, has as a stated goal the elimination of health disparities by race, ethnicity, gender, education, income, disability, geographic location, or sexual orientation. Recently, research in the area of racial and ethnic health disparities has increased. However, the bulk of this work has not dealt with the issue of social class and its relationship to racial and ethnic health disparities. We will look at reasons for this apparent oversight and its implications for research on health disparities and interventions to eliminate these disparities. Specifically, we will discuss what lies behind the government?s campaign against racial and ethnic health disparities. Finally, this talk will take up how efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities that lack an analysis of the social class relations underlying them can only serve to buttress those very same social relations.

Learning Objectives: At the end of this presentation the learner will be able to

Keywords: Health Disparities, African American

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Race, Class, and Hierarchy: A Closer Look at Health Inequalities

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA