How does race implicate issues of health and illness?

Essay by pjvscubaUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 2009

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Define the concepts 'race' and ethnic group'. How does race implicate issues of health and illness? How does it affect people's choices in mixed cultural situations? Consider the political and economic effects of 'racism' and 'ethnocentrism' on people's health status.

Medical anthropological research has found ethnicity disparities in the frequency and availability of treatments for several diseases (Curtis, 1996). As a result, there are significant differences in morbidity and mortality rates among ethnic groups. Research and debates on this topic have regarded socioeconomic factors, lifestyle behaviors, social environment, worldviews, and access to preventive health-care services.

Social scientists and biologists alike cannot agree on how many races there are because it is so arbitrary (Henslin, 2007). In our modern world, race is determined by inherent skin color, which unfortunately implies social class or status (Brown, 1998). Therefore, inherited attributes of races are not a genetic, but social a classification. All humans are of the same species, Homo sapiens. Race is a fabrication designed to categorize humans (Brown, 1998). Cross-cultural studies on phenotypes are conducted because race is not a useful biological concept (Brown, 1998). Unfortunately, medical practitioners, mental health workers, and their patients often associate race with ethnicity.

Anthropologists have attempted to define ethnicity by three competing theories, according to the Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology (1996): primordialist, instrumentalist, and constructivist. Primordial theorists examine ethnicity based on phylogenetic ancestral connections determined by genetic and geographical factors. Instrumentalists believe that ethnicity is a political fabrication, which economically exploits groups of people. Constructive theorists assert that historical accountings of ethnic groups are used to establish group identity, background, political mobilization and social stratification. However, for the purpose of this paper, ethnicity is simply defined as a person's national or cultural origin.

Ethnicity has three fundamental purposes with in society, according to...