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Ethnicity, race, epidemiology, and public health 

Ethnicity, race, epidemiology, and public health
Ethnicity, race, epidemiology, and public health

Raj Bhopal

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date: 16 May 2022

As social beings, humans have finely developed abilities to differentiate individuals and groups. Among the characteristics that allow this are race and ethnicity—both complex and controversial concepts that are important to epidemiology and public health. Modern classifications of race and ethnicity are widely used in demographic and health and health care databases. Such data and ad hoc research show important group-level differences in health status and health care utilization and quality. Some, but not all, differences are also clearly inequities, that is, there is an element of injustice. Ethnicity and race have, therefore, become integral to the inequalities and inequities (disparities) agenda as important and social determinants of health. These concepts tie in with migration status, nationality, indigenous (aboriginal) status, and racism. International laws and policies, widely translated nationally and locally, embrace these and other areas through their antiracism and antidiscrimination stance. To help deliver the goals of these laws and policies public health plays a vital role through epidemiologically based needs assessment, priority setting, and high-quality research. This in turn creates better policies and services, ultimately leading to better population health.

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