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DISSECTING INEQUALITY Gail Henderson, Ph.D. Department of Social Medicine.

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Presentation on theme: "DISSECTING INEQUALITY Gail Henderson, Ph.D. Department of Social Medicine."— Presentation transcript:

1 DISSECTING INEQUALITY Gail Henderson, Ph.D. Department of Social Medicine

2 INEQUALITY Absolute Poverty Relative Poverty Distribution of Resources

3 INEQUITY “Refers to differences which are considered unfair and unjust”

4 RUDOLPH VIRCHOW “Medical statistics will be our standard of measurement: we will weigh life for life and see where the dead lie thicker, among the workers or among the privileged.” 1848

5 PAUL FARMER, MD “Inequality itself constitutes our modern plague.” (Infections and Inequalities, 1999)

6 HOW DOES SOCIAL POSITION AFFECT HEALTH? MATERIAL CONDITIONS OF WORK AND LIFE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT HEALTH-RELATED BEHAVIORS PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS EFFECTS OF HIERARCHICAL ORDERING

7 PER CAPITA INCOME AND IMR

8 RESEARCH FINDINGS (Adler et al. 1993) IT’S A GRADIENT, NOT A DICHOTOMY THE CAUSAL DIRECTION IS MAINLY SOCIAL POSITION  HEALTH IT’S A “FUNDAMENTAL CAUSE,” NO MATTER WHAT INTERVENING OR PROXIMATE VARIABLES

9 BREAKTHROUGH STUDIES… Kitagawa and Hauser (1973) “Differential Mortality in the United States: A Study in Socioeconomic Epidemiology” National Followback Mortality Survey Pappas et al. (1993) Comparing Rogers et al. (1992) The Black Report (England) 1980

10 DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES WITHIN A SOCIETY AFFECTS HEALTH

11 RACE AND HEALTH IN THE US

12 “WHAT RACE IS SHE?” New York Times Sunday Magazine

13 CONFLICTING TRENDS 1. ‘RACE’ IS INCREASINGLY CHALLENGED AS A VALID GENETIC CLASSIFICATION “Some geographically or culturally isolated populations can properly be studied for genetic influences on physiological phenomena or diseases… After 400 years of social disruption, geographic dispersion, and genetic intermingling, there are no alleles that define the black people of North America as a unique population or race.” (Schwartz NEJM 2001)

14 U.S. CENSUS CATEGORIES, White 2. Black, African American, or Negro 3. American Indian or Alaska Native 4. Asian or Pacific Islander [Asian Indian; Chinese; Filipino; Japanese; Korean; Vietnamese; Native Hawaiian; Guamanian or Chamorro; Samoan; Other Asian (print race); Other Pacific Islander (print)] 5. Some other race (print) HISPANIC ETHNICITY?

15 CENSUS QUESTION ON HISPANIC ORIGIN OR DESCENT Mexican, Mexican-American, or Chicano; Puerto Rican; Cuban; Other …What about Criollo, Mestizo, Mulato, LatiNegro, Afro- Latino, and Indigena (categories in Central and South America)? What Makes Asian-American a ‘race’, with 25 different populations of diverse origin, while Hispanics and Latinos are an ‘ethnic’ group?

16 IMR Differences Within Categories, Hispanic 6.0 Cuban 3.6 Central and South American 5.3 Mexican 5.6 Puerto Rican 7.8

17 CONFLICTING TRENDS 2. PHYSICIANS ARE TRAINED TO USE RACE FOR DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT DECISIONS, AND PHARMACO-GENOMICS AND GENETIC EPIDEMIOLOGY EXAMINE VARIATIONS WITHIN ‘RACE’ GROUPS “An imprecise clue is better than no clue at all.” (Satel 2002)

18 CONFLICTING TRENDS 3. MOST HEALTH DISPARITIES ARE NOT GENETIC IN ORIGIN. THE U.S. HAS SET AS A NATIONAL PRIORITY ELIMINATION OF HEALTH DISPARITIES – WHICH ARE MOST FREQUENTLY MEASURED BETWEEN RACE AND ETHNIC GROUPS

19 “Renal Transplantation in Black Americans” (NEJM 2000) RACE INCIDENCE OF ESRD PREVALENCE OF ESRD BLACKS 873 / Million 3579 / Million WHITE 218 / Million 803 / Million

20 INFANT MORTALITY RATES BY ‘RACE’ IN THE U.S., YEARBLACKNATIVEWHITEHISPANCHINESE

21 1998 AGE-ADJUSTED DEATH RATES/100,000 BY CAUSE CAUSESBLACKNATIVEWHITEHISPANASIAN ALL HEART CEREBR CANCER AIDS ACCID SUICIDE HOM

22 IF ‘RACE’ IS A POLITICAL AND CULTURAL CONSTRUCTION, WHAT IS IT MEASURING?

23 IS RACE A PROXY FOR SOCIAL CLASS? “Socioeconomic status (SES) predicts variation in health within minority and white populations and accounts for much of the racial differences in health.” (David Williams, “Race, SES and Health,” 2001)

24 Mortality and Income in the US, 1986 (Pappas et al.)

25 “Effect of Known Risk Factors on Excess Mortality of Black Adults in the US” (NEJM, Otten et al. 1990) Unadjusted mortality rate ratio Adjust for 6 risk factors (smoking, systolic BP, cholesterol, BMI, alcohol, and diabetes). Explains 31% of difference Adjust for family inc. Explains 38% 31% -- Unexplained

26 “Racial Differences in the Treatment of Early Stage Lung Cancer” (NEJM, 1999) What explain different survival rates? 5-YR SURVIVAL RATE: blacks 26.4%, whites 34.1% SURGERY RATE: 12.7% lower for blacks (64% vs. 77% P < 0.001) SURGICAL SURVIVAL RATE: similar NON-SURGICAL SURVIVAL RATE: similar

27 MEASURING RACISM (LaVeist 1996) Structural racism: Policy intentionally or unintentionally injurious to a race group (segregation; mortgage underwriting; environmental toxins) Individual racism: Application of power or influence with personal prejudice (differential clinical care; different intensity of services for same diagnosis) Racism as social stressor: Internalization of victimization of racism (blood pressure; mental health)

28 “The Future of Research on Race, Racism, and Health” “Only when we move beyond race as a proxy and directly measure those concepts believed to be measured by race, will we make truly important advances in describing the true nature of racial variation in health. And, only then can we begin what is really the important work: eliminating disparities in health status.” (LaVeist, 1996)

29 PROBLEMS WITH USING ‘RACE’ IN HEALTH RESEARCH 1. When race, genetics, and disease are linked, a ‘calculus of risk’ associates race with disease; race as a risk factor produces social harms of stigma and discrimination. 2. Race is often used uncritically (e.g., skin color as independent variable), failing to engage with the complex biological and environmental factors that may produce statistical significance. 3. NIH rules produce ‘uncritical inclusion’ of race in research, reinforcing notion of racial differences. 4. Use of race is caught in a tautology: We assume race differences to exist and proceed to find them.

30 WHY WE CAN’T DROP ‘RACE’ 1.It remains a powerful social category, strongly associated with health disparities. 2.To assess improvement, we need to measure change over time. 3.Why else?

31 HOW DO WE MAKE SENSE OF THIS INEQUALITY?

32 NEW YORK TIMES POLL 85% of Americans agreed with this statement: “It is possible in America to be pretty much who you want to be.”

33 “PERCEPTIONS OF INEQUALITY AND JUSTICE IN U.S.” –1991 [THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY] People are rich because of hard work (58%), and ability/talent (52%) People are poor because of lack of effort (37%), loose morals and drink (22%)

34 HOW MUCH MOBILITY DO WE HAVE IN THE U.S.? MORE INTERGENERATIONAL MOBILITY IN INDUSTRIALIZED NATIONS; LESS IN LESS DEVELOPED COUNTRIES. WE HAVE ABOUT AS MUCH AS OTHER INDUSTRIAL COUNTRIES. THE TOP AND THE BOTTOM ARE HARDER TO GET INTO AND OUT OF IN THE US. SITUATION FOR BLACKS HAS IMPROVED SINCE THE 1960S, WHEN IT WAS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO “BEQUEATH” HIGHER CLASS POSITION.

35 BLACK MOBILITY HAS IMPROVED, BUT GAP REMAINS LIKEHOOD OF WHITES vs. BLACKS MOVING INTO UPPER 10% INCOME : 3.5 x more likely : 3.1 x : 2.5 x

36 PROPORTION OF BLACKS AND WHITES IDENTIFYING THEMSELVES AS “MIDDLE-CLASS” YEARBLACKWHITERATIO %46% %50% %51% %64%.69

37 “PERCEPTIONS OF INEQUALITY AND JUSTICE IN U.S.” –1991 [ STRUCTURAL INEQUALITIES] People are rich because they have the right connections (72%), and have more opportunities to begin with (55%) People are poor because of failure of the economic system (28%), and discrimination against certain groups (17%)

38 EXPLAINING HEALTH INEQUALITIES SOCIO-ECONOMIC STATUS SOCIAL STRUCTURE, INCLUDING INSTITUTIONAL RACISM HEALTH BEHAVIOR/ LIFESTYLE INNATE GENETIC/ BIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES

39 WHY DOES IT MATTER? MATERIALIST VIEW PLACES RESPONSIBILITY AT SOCIETAL LEVEL EXPLANATIONS FOCUSING ON INDIVIDUAL BLAME PEOPLE FOR THEIR OWN HEALTH PROBLEMS

40 INEQUITY: “Differences in health which are considered unfair and unjust” Depends on who/what is responsible… Socio-economic status Social structure, including institutional racism Health behavior, including lifestyle Innate genetic/ biological differences

41 THE GLOBAL VIEW: “ONE WORLD, TWO FATES” “Of children who die before their 5 th birthday, 98% live in developing nations. Of millions dying prematurely from TB, malaria, tetanus, and pertussis, all but a few thousand live in the poorer nations.” ( The Economist, 1999)

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