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Special Communication |

Genetic Research and Health Disparities

Pamela Sankar, PhD; Mildred K. Cho, PhD; Celeste M. Condit, PhD; Linda M. Hunt, PhD; Barbara Koenig, PhD; Patricia Marshall, PhD; Sandra Soo-Jin Lee, PhD; Paul Spicer, PhD
JAMA. 2004;291(24):2985-2989. doi:10.1001/jama.291.24.2985.
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Alleviating health disparities in the United States is a goal with broad support. Medical research undertaken to achieve this goal typically adopts the well-established perspective that racial discrimination and poverty are the major contributors to unequal health status. However, the suggestion is increasingly made that genetic research also has a significant role to play in alleviating this problem, which likely overstates the importance of genetics as a factor in health disparities. Overemphasis on genetics as a major explanatory factor in health disparities could lead researchers to miss factors that contribute to disparities more substantially and may also reinforce racial stereotyping, which may contribute to disparities in the first place. Arguments that promote genetics research as a way to help alleviate health disparities are augmented by several factors, including research funding initiatives and the distinct demographic patterns of health disparities in the United States.

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