Race In Public Health Essay

765 words - 3 pages

Racial Categorization in Public HealthBy: Alex Thau2/10/14As humans of the modern age, it is within our internal instincts to categorize those around us into specific groups based off of a variety of factors. In terms of public health, disparities due to race and ethnicity have the ability to create many discrepancies within our healthcare system. The use of 'race' as a classification for humans has the potential to be extremely harmful when addressing various aspects of society such as public health and medical research.For many years racism itself has been portrayed as a negative aspect of American society; yet the concept of race has many flaws that people are unaware of. For example, the perception of race has not been clearly defined, and there is no consensus definition (LaVeist 17). Due to this lack of understanding of the term, it is often used out of context. The understanding of a person's race cannot solely be determined based off of their skin color, which has become a common misconception in todays' society. We label people based off of their appearance, which causes us to put them into groups that they do not necessarily belong to. This concept pertains to many public health studies that take place within society all the time. Surveys and cross sectional studies that are distributed to various organizations such as schools, houses, and workplaces often contain few selections when determining race. If someone does not fall under one of the listed racial categories, they have no choice but to select an option that is incorrect. Many people are a combination of different races, which is also not taken into account within these investigations. This is harmful in terms of public health because specific norms are established based off of what people say in these studies; so if they are inaccurate this can cause errors when observing various aspects of public health. For instance, a Cuban, Mexican, and an El Salvadoran are all classified as Hispanic in the United States. However, each one has a varying culture that influences individual aspects of health. It is common for us to try and categorize people in one specific way, and this lack of understanding "leaves a great deal of room for erroneous interpretations of research findings and consequently for ineffective public policy and public health programming- and possibly even ineffective medical...

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