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It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Race and health. (Discuss)

Ethnicity is a major factor affecting the health of individuals and communities. While the Wikipedia entries under 'ethnicity' (or 'ethnic group') describe many national differences in the way that ethnic groups are described, and there is near-universal agreement that 'ethnicity' is a socially constructed identity, and not a genetically determined and enduring fact which determines behavior and the qualities of the individual, nevertheless, membership of an ethnic group is likely to imply certain very specific health risks and needs.

For example, genetic heritage among those who are described or describe themselves as Ashkenazi Jewish means a much higher probability of a child being born with Tay Sachs disease (almost exclusively - that is, this disease is very rare indeed outside this community and its descendants). Similarly, people of West African heritage have a much higher probability of being born with - or carrying the genetic trait for, Sickle Cell disease.[1] A recent editorial in the British Medical Journal reports that lactose intolerance affects (over their lifetime) as many as 25% of Europeans but up to 50-80% of Hispanics, along with people from southern India and Ashkenazi Jews, but nearly 100% of Native Americans.[2]

The science of 'ethnic health', or research into ethnicity and health, and the development of services which are culturally competent to meet the specific health care needs of minority ethnic groups, is still in its infancy.[3]

In the United States, the Office of Minority Health provides useful links and supports research and development relating to the needs of America's ethnic minorities. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service established a specialist collection on Ethnicity & Health.[4] This resource was supported by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as part of the recent UK NHS Evidence initiative NHS Evidence.[5] However, it has been removed as part of a re-organisation of the NHS Evidence site,[6] although using the 'search' buttons, and some issues of the update news facility in NHS Evidence("Eyes on Evidence") can maintain the process of considering the impact or implications of health advice on minority groups. Similarly, there are growing numbers of resource and research centers which are seeking to provide this service for other national settings, such as Multicultural Mental Health Australia.

See also Edit

Sociological narratives:


  1. Dyson, Simon M. (1998), "Race, ethnicity and haemoglobin disorders", Social Science and Medicine, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp. 121–131, 
  2. Bhatnagar, Shinjini; Aggarwal, Rakesh (2007), "Lactose intolerance", British Medical Journal, Volume 334, pp. 1331–1332, 
  3. Johnson, Mark (2006), "Ethnicity", in Killoran, Amanda; Swann, Catherine; Kelly, Michael P., Public Health Evidence: Tackling health inequalities, Oxford University Press, 
  4. NHS Evidence - ethnicity and health.

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