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Glossary of Health Equity Terms and Concepts

Ableism: Discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities – UW Medicine

Ageism: A system of oppression based on the social construction of age superiority and inferiority, which is expressed in individual, institutional, as well as cultural forms and functions for the benefit of some at the expense of others. –UW Medicine

Ethnicity: Denotes groups, such as Irish, Fijian, or Sioux, etc. that share a common identity-based ancestry, language, or culture. It is often based on religion, beliefs, and customs as well as memories of migration or colonization (Cornell & Hartmann, 2007). In scientific analysis, it can be important to distinguish, however loosely, between race and ethnicity. Biological anthropologist Fatimah Jackson (2003) provides a pertinent example of cultural practices being misread as biological differences. Microethnic groups living in the Mississippi Delta, she writes, use sassafras in traditional cooking. Sassafras increases susceptibility to pancreatic cancer. Medical practitioners who do not carefully disaggregate cultural and biological traits might interpret a geographic cluster of pancreatic cancer as related to a genetic or racial trait when, in fact, the disease is produced by cultural practices—in this case, shared culinary habits. Source

Geographical Ancestry: Biologists Marcus Feldman and Richard Lewontin write that the 0.1% genetic difference among humans can be traced to divergent ancestral geographic regions. Sickle cell anemia, for example, should be thought of as connected not to race but to geographic ancestry. Sickle cell disease arose where malaria is or was prevalent, including sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Indian subcontinent. Thus knowledge of biogeographical ancestry may assist physicians in medical interventions.

Health Disparities: preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by social disadvantaged populations – CDC

Health Literacy: The term 'health literacy' means the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services in order to make appropriate health decisions. Source

Implicit Bias: implicit and explicit bias are closely related, though implicit bias is much more pervasive and takes more self-awareness to identify.

Language Discrimination: Language discrimination is a subset of national origin discrimination. Language discrimination refers to the unfair treatment of an individual based solely upon the characteristics of their speech; such as, accent, size of vocabulary, and syntax. It can also involve a person's ability or inability to use one language instead of another. Source

LGBTQ+: An Acronym that stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and other identities in the queer community. This is an umbrella term that covers all identities within the community.

Race: is a powerful social category forged historically through oppression, slavery, and conquest. Most geneticists agree that racial taxonomies at the DNA level are invalid. Genetic differences within any designated racial group are often greater than differences between racial groups. Most genetic markers do not differ sufficiently by race to be useful in medical research (Duster, 2009;Cosmides, 2003).

Race as a Social Category: Humans vary remarkably in wealth, exposure to environmental toxins, and access to medicine. These factors can create health disparities. Krieger (2000) describes disparities that result from racial discrimination as “biological expressions of race relations.” African Americans, for example, have higher rates of mortality than other racial groups for 8 of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. (Race, Ethnicity, and Genetics Working Group, 2005). Although these disparities can be explained in part by social class, they are not reducible to class distinctions.

Religion: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. – Meriam Webster Dictionary

Scientific Racism: The U.S. National Institute of Medicine has noted that "historically, studies on race, ethnicity, age, nationality, religion, and sex have sometimes led to discriminatory practices" (Wizemann & Pardue, 2001). In the same way that science based on “inherent sex difference” was used throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to justify women's exclusion from science and the professions, and to deny women the rights of citizenship, science based on “inherent racial difference” was used to justify the continued subordination of non-white races (Russett, 1989; Schiebinger, 1993). Much research was done in the nineteenth century in efforts to show that differences in brain structure between whites and blacks reflected the lesser evolution of non-white peoples (Tucker, 1996). Twentieth-century debates over IQ and brain structure played a similar role (Gould, 1996).

Unconscious Bias: Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one’s conscious values. Certain scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs. For example, biases may be more prevalent when multi-tasking or working under time pressure. Source

Xenophobia: Dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.

Xenophobia as a determinant of health: an integrative review.

Abstract: Though xenophobia has become increasingly relevant in today's political climate, little is known about the impact of xenophobia on health. While some studies have shown that xenophobia, in local contexts, may contribute to worse mental health outcomes, none have attempted to review the published literature to integrate these findings. This integrative scoping review examines the strength of these publications, then synthesizes their findings to provide a global perspective on xenophobia. The results show that it is not merely a political threat, but also has real, negative impact on the health of individuals and their communities. Given the multiple negative effects on individual and community health, xenophobia warrants more attention from both a public health and political perspective. Policies that promote cultural integration and understanding are essential to improving community health.