Understanding and tackling
ethnic inequalities in health
An ESRC Research Seminar Series
Organisers: Sarah Salway and Kiran Nanchahal
Interest in links between race, ethnicity & health is not
Huge increase in available data, and significant shift in
policy, in last 10-15 years.
Evidence of large and persistent inequality (and diversity)
in many aspects of social, economic and health-related
well-being between ethnic groups.
Growing number of ‘ethnic health researchers’.
Increased programme activity at local level.
Improving health of minority ethnic groups central
component of government’s agenda to reduce social
exclusion and inequalities in health
Significant action at policy level across many
government departments: new research programmes,
new focused interventions, and new targets for
achieving reduction in ethnic minority disadvantage.
Increased recognition of ways in which different
dimensions of disadvantage inter-relate.
Wide range of factors contribute to health outcomes
in ethnic minority groups:
Differential access & quality of health services
Migration and life events
Genetic or biological variation
Need cross-disciplinary methods of enquiry and
ESRC Research Seminar Series
Aims and objectives
Promote discussion networks between
academic researchers and strengthen their
contribution to long term health of the social
Value to research
Setting or enhancing personal research agendas
Increasing range of personal research contacts
Increasing degree of collaborative research
Value to policy makers
Impact on knowledge and perceptions of the
Political impact on area of operation or policy
Aims of this seminar series
To bring together academics from wide range of
institutional settings, practitioners, policy-makers, and
other users of research.
To share current knowledge regarding patterns and
determinants of health among different ethnic groups,
as well as ‘best practice’ in researching ethnicity and
To engage in debate surrounding current issues and
challenges regarding the generation and application of
knowledge to effective practice.
Some issues and challenges
What is ‘ethnicity’? – fluid and complex
Health-focused research often not based on theoretical
How can inequality be understood, monitored and
addressed if categories keep shifting?
How can greater understanding of lived experiences:
‘What I am’, and ‘What it means to be me’, be put to
practical use to bring about positive change?
Potential pitfalls of attention to ethnicity
Reification of ethnic ‘groups’ and contribution to
boundaries of exclusion.
Lack of representation of powerless groups, racism,
Overlooking of other axes of inequality (and their inter-
Issues and challenges (2)
Ever-increasing diversity (countries of origin,
life-stage, generation, class)
Is detailed understanding of particular situations useful?
Can we expect to tailor services to meet diverse needs?
Or, should generic cultural competencies be the
Can investigations move beyond the descriptive to the
Problems of generalisability of findings over time, e.g.
current studies on older groups.
Issues and challenges (3)
Translating knowledge into policy and practice
Gap between academia and world of service provision
Need for more “researcher-practitioners” and multi-
Danger of nuanced interpretations being translated
into stereotypical responses.
What should be the boundaries of the health sector?
Who should be concerned about ethnic minority health?
What other issues should concern health practitioners?
How can local knowledge be built upon?
What models of participation & empowerment work well?
How can local initiatives be scaled up effectively?
Participation in the series
Senior/ Junior staff
Speakers & discussants
New ways of looking at things?
Seminars & convenors (2005)
• Understanding the links
1. February 2005, London between socioeconomic
James Nazroo & Sarah deprivation & health
Salway among ethnic minority
• Using assessments of
2. June 2005, Leeds biological and genetic
Karl Atkin & Elizabeth risk to inform policy
3. October 2005, London • Gender, generation and
Seeromanie Harding & Kiran identity: socio-cultural
constructions and their
Nanchahal influences on health
Seminars & convenors (2006)
4. January 2006, Warwick • Migration, trans-national
David Owen & Hannah links and life-course
influences on health
5. April 2006, Leicester • Cultural competence in
Mark Johnson & Raj health and social research
• Evidence into practice:
6. July 2006, Sheffield increasing appropriateness
Kate Gerrish & Sarah and cultural competence
Salway of health and social care
Many thanks to..
ESRC for providing funding
The Brady Centre
Our speakers and discussants
Linda Belk for administration
June 2005, Leeds
Karl Atkin & Elizabeth Anionwu
Using assessments of biological and genetic
risk to inform policy priorities