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Ethnicity, social inequality and health: Evidence and policy lessons
Wed 3 May 2017, 15:30 – 17:30 BST
This seminar hosted by the Faculty of Social Sciences will be led by Professor James Nazroo, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity - University of Manchester
Differences in health across ethnic groups have been repeatedly documented in the UK, as they have in the US and elsewhere in the world. They seem to be a consistent feature of the social distribution of health. But health inequalities have largely been investigated within a medical paradigm, one that focuses on specific diseases, and investigates the distribution of disease across the population in the expectation of finding ‘clues’ as to causal processes. The seemingly ‘natural’ division of the population into ethnic/race groups in such investigations allows for the easy reification of ethnic classifications and the identification of causal processes within imagined essential characteristics of ethnic groups. Such approaches to classification are, however, increasingly challenged by the recognition of heterogeneity of ethnic identification within broad categories. The recognition of such heterogeneity requires us to rethink the ways in which they classify those we study, the underlying theoretical approach and the implications of this for the collection, analysis and interpretation of data.
In this paper I will consider how we might approach understanding the relationship between ethnicity and health in the context of inequality and I will show that ethnic inequalities in health cannot be understood without building on an adequate understanding of how ethnicity/race shapes social relations and how this varies across contexts. The core argument is that health cannot be understood outside of social context – its generation and distribution across the population is not a purely biological phenomenon. And that difference in health across ethnic groups cannot be understood without considering how they relate to the patterning of social and economic inequalities. I will then discuss the implications for the development of policy to address ethnic inequalities in health.