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Health Serv Res. 2012 Jun;47(3 Pt 2):1255-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2012.01404.x. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

Integrating multiple social statuses in health disparities research: the case of lung cancer.

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  • 1Department of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard University, School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, 6th Floor, Boston, MA, 02215, USA.



To illustrate the complex patterns that emerge when race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), and gender are considered simultaneously in health care disparities research and to outline the needed research to understand them by using disparities in lung cancer risks, treatment, and outcomes as an example.


SES, gender, and race/ethnicity are social categories that are robust predictors of variations in health and health services utilization. These are usually considered separately, but intersectionality theory indicates that the impact of each depends on the others. Each reflects historically and culturally contingent variations in social, economic, and political status. Distinct patterns of risk and resilience emerge at the intersections of multiple social categories and shape the experience of health, health care access, utilization, quality, and outcomes where these categories intersect. Intersectional approaches call for greater attention to understand social processes at multiple levels of society and require the collection of relevant data and utilization of appropriate analytic approaches to understand how multiple risk factors and resources combine to affect the distribution of disease and its management.


Understanding how race/ethnicity, gender, and SES are interactive, interdependent, and social identities can provide new knowledge to enhance our efforts to effectively address health disparities.

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