Methods for the scientific study of discrimination and health: an ecosocial approach

Am J Public Health. 2012 May;102(5):936-44. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300544. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


The scientific study of how discrimination harms health requires theoretically grounded methods. At issue is how discrimination, as one form of societal injustice, becomes embodied inequality and is manifested as health inequities. As clarified by ecosocial theory, methods must address the lived realities of discrimination as an exploitative and oppressive societal phenomenon operating at multiple levels and involving myriad pathways across both the life course and historical generations. An integrated embodied research approach hence must consider (1) the structural level-past and present de jure and de facto discrimination; (2) the individual level-issues of domains, nativity, and use of both explicit and implicit discrimination measures; and (3) how current research methods likely underestimate the impact of racism on health.

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Research / organization & administration*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Prejudice*
  • Racial Groups*
  • Research Design*
  • Social Environment
  • Sociology, Medical