Genetic Approaches to Health Disparities

Posted in Books, Chapter, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Social Science, United States on 2015-09-29 20:41Z by Steven

Genetic Approaches to Health Disparities

Chapter in Genetics, Health and Society (Advances in Medical Sociology, Volume 16) (2014)
pages 71-93
DOI: 10.1108/S1057-629020150000016003

Catherine Bliss, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of California, San Francisco


This chapter explores the rise in genetic approaches to health disparities at the turn of the twenty-first century.


Analysis of public health policies, genome project records, ethnography of project leaders and leading genetic epidemiologists, and news coverage of international projects demonstrates how the study of health disparities and genetic causes of health simultaneously took hold just as the new field of genomics and matters of racial inequality became a global priority for biomedical science and public health.


As the U.S. federal government created policies to implement racial inclusion standards, international genome projects seized the study race, and diseases that exhibit disparities by race. Genomic leaders made health disparities research a central feature of their science. However, recent attempts to move toward analysis of gene-environment interactions in health and disease have proven insufficient in addressing sociological contributors to health disparities. In place of in-depth analyses of environmental causes, pharmacogenomics drugs, diagnostics, and inclusion in sequencing projects have become the frontline solutions to health disparities.


The chapter argues that genetic forms of medicalization and racialization have taken hold over science and public health around the world, thereby engendering a divestment from sociological approaches that do not align with the expansion of genomic science. The chapter thus contributes to critical discussions in the social and health sciences about the fundamental processes of medicalization, racialization, and geneticization in contemporary society.

Read or the purchase the chapter here.


The Marketization of Identity Politics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-09-29 20:34Z by Steven

The Marketization of Identity Politics

Volume 47, Number 5 (October 2013)
pages 1011-1025
DOI: 10.1177/0038038513495604

Catherine Bliss, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of California, San Francisco

Sociology has begun to question how new genetic sciences affect older ways of constructing and contesting social identity, including forms of identity politics that have brought women and minorities significant gains. This article presents US debates on genetics, identity politics, and race in order to theorize emergent transformations in light of the genomic revolution. Examining recent developments in the realms of pharmaceuticals and ancestry estimation, I argue that traditional forms of identity politics are still actively at work, though they are being marketized in novel ways. This article combines theories of racialization and medicalization to detail how genomics ushers in a subtle new version of identity politics: a pharmaceuticalized citizenship wherein health rights and political participation are co-envisioned in individualistic molecular terms.

Read the entire article here.

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Born that way? ‘Scientific’ racism is creeping back into our thinking. Here’s what to watch out for.

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-09-28 17:45Z by Steven

Born that way? ‘Scientific’ racism is creeping back into our thinking. Here’s what to watch out for.

The Washington Post

W. Carson Byrd, Assistant Professor of Pan-African Studies
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

Matthew W. Hughey, Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

This month, Jennifer Cramblett lost her “wrongful birth” lawsuit, which centered on a troubling ideology that has been creeping into mainstream discussions in ways not seen in decades. Cramblett claimed that the sperm used to inseminate her came from the wrong donor, leading to a biracial child, which she had not wanted. Her lawsuit claimed that this mix-up in the lab caused her and her family personal injuries of various kinds.

This lawsuit was shadowed by a troubling logic: the idea that race is a biological reality with particular traits and behaviors that can be avoided through proper breeding practices. In doing so, Cramblett’s claims echoed arguments made in a darker era of global history of “scientific” racism.

Here’s how the argument goes. Some people are born with outstanding talents, easily mastering basketball, mathematics, languages or piano, if given the right environment in which to grow. What biologist or social scientist could argue with that? But alongside that genetic understanding, an old and pernicious assumption has crept back into the American conversation, in which aptitudes are supposedly inherited by race: certain peoples are thought to have rhythm, or intellect, or speed or charm. That’s a fast track toward the old 19th- and early 20th-century problem of “scientific” racism…

…Sociological data suggest that the social behavior of both slaves and slaveholders better explains mortality rates than do physiological qualities of health, speed or strength. In particular, groups of rebellious young men were were most likely to die than those who passively acquiesced, while the economically well-off slaveholders were more likely to kill slaves than those who could not afford to lose property. In sum, the social forces of organized rebellion and the political economy of slavery are better explanations for mortality rates than abstract appeals to “genes” or “natural selection.”

Hughey’s and Goss’s work finds that such explanations have actually proliferated in an era that many argue is “colorblind” or “post-racial,” from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who proudly said that he forgot, for a moment, that Obama was black, to a 2011 New York Times article that referred to interracial marriage as “a step toward transcending race,” to the claim that “all”— not “black” — lives matter, as presidential candidate Rand Paul recently insisted

Read the entire article here.

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The Roanes of Virginia: 2 families with the same surname. Are they related or not?

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2015-09-27 17:55Z by Steven

The Roanes of Virginia: 2 families with the same surname. Are they related or not?

Genealogy Adventures

Brian Sheffey

What could possible be confusing about two immigrant families coming from the same region in Europe and landing in the US around the same time? When it comes to pre-Revolutionary War Era Roane family…there’s plenty.

One group of early 18th Century Roanes were Scots-Irish in their origins, descendants of the northern Irish landowner of Scottish origins, Archibald Gilbert Roane. The other Roane family hailed from England, descendants of Charles “The Immigrant” Roane.

As I’ve previously written, these two men were not directly related to one another. If I had the power to correct every single Roane family tree that shows Charles as being the father of Archibald, I would do it in a heartbeat :o)…

Read the entire article here.

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Racism as a Determinant of Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, United States on 2015-09-25 02:37Z by Steven

Racism as a Determinant of Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

48 pages
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138511

Yin Paradies, Professor
Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization, Faculty of Arts and Education
Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Jehonathan Ben
Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization, Faculty of Arts and Education
Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Amanuel Elias
Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization, Faculty of Arts and Education
Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Nida Denson
School of Social Sciences and Psychology
University of Western Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Naomi Priest, Senior Research Fellow in child public health and health inequalities
Australian Centre for Applied Social Research Methods
Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Alex Pieterse
Division of Counseling Psychology
University at Albany, State University of New York

Arpana Gupta
Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress, David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California, Los Angeles

Margaret Kelaher
Centre for Health Policy Programs and Economics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Gilbert Gee
Department of Community Health Sciences
University of California, Los Angeles, Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, California

Despite a growing body of epidemiological evidence in recent years documenting the health impacts of racism, the cumulative evidence base has yet to be synthesized in a comprehensive meta-analysis focused specifically on racism as a determinant of health. This meta-analysis reviewed the literature focusing on the relationship between reported racism and mental and physical health outcomes. Data from 293 studies reported in 333 articles published between 1983 and 2013, and conducted predominately in the U.S., were analysed using random effects models and mean weighted effect sizes. Racism was associated with poorer mental health (negative mental health: r = -.23, 95% CI [-.24,-.21], k = 227; positive mental health: r = -.13, 95% CI [-.16,-.10], k = 113), including depression, anxiety, psychological stress and various other outcomes. Racism was also associated with poorer general health (r = -.13 (95% CI [-.18,-.09], k = 30), and poorer physical health (r = -.09, 95% CI [-.12,-.06], k = 50). Moderation effects were found for some outcomes with regard to study and exposure characteristics. Effect sizes of racism on mental health were stronger in cross-sectional compared with longitudinal data and in non-representative samples compared with representative samples. Age, sex, birthplace and education level did not moderate the effects of racism on health. Ethnicity significantly moderated the effect of racism on negative mental health and physical health: the association between racism and negative mental health was significantly stronger for Asian American and Latino(a) American participants compared with African American participants, and the association between racism and physical health was significantly stronger for Latino(a) American participants compared with African American participants. Protocol PROSPERO registration number: CRD42013005464.

Read the entire article here.

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Race: An Introduction

Posted in Africa, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States on 2015-09-21 20:56Z by Steven

Race: An Introduction

Cambridge University Press
August 2015
272 pages
13 b/w illus. 4 tables
245 x 190 x 12 mm
Hardback ISBN: 9781107034112
Paperback ISBN: 9781107652286

Peter Wade, Professor of Social Anthropology
University of Manchester

Taking a comparative approach, this textbook is a concise introduction to race. Illustrated with detailed examples from around the world, it is organised into two parts. Part One explores the historical changes in ideas about race from the ancient world to the present day, in different corners of the globe. Part Two outlines ways in which racial difference and inequality are perceived and enacted in selected regions of the world. Examining how humans have used ideas of physical appearance, heredity and behaviour as criteria for categorising others, the text guides students through provocative questions such as: what is race? Does studying race reinforce racism? Does a colour-blind approach dismantle, or merely mask, racism? How does biology feed into concepts of race? Numerous case studies, photos, figures and tables help students to appreciate the different meanings of race in varied contexts, and end-of-chapter research tasks provide further support for student learning.

  • Combines a broad historical overview (from the ancient world to the present day) with wide geographical and comparative coverage to show that race means different things in different contexts
  • Detailed historical and ethnographic material in textboxes, figures, photos and tables demonstrates the operation of race in everyday life
  • Offers an up-to-date, critical overview of a fast-changing field


  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • 1 Knowing ‘race’
    • 1.1 Chronology of race
    • 1.2 Is race defined by appearance, biology and nature?
    • 1.3 Culture, appearance and biology revisited
    • 1.4 Race, comparatively and historically
    • 1.5 Comparisons
    • 1.6 Race in the history of Western modernity
    • Conclusion: so what is race?
    • Further research
  • Part I race in time
    • 2 Early approaches to understanding human variation
      • 2.1 Nature and culture
      • 2.2 Ancient Greece and Rome
      • 2.3 Medieval and early modern Europe
      • 2.4 New World colonisation
      • Conclusion
      • Further research
    • 3 From Enlightenment to eugenics
      • 3.1 Transitions
      • 3.2 Changing racial theories
      • 3.3 The spread of racial theory: nation, class, gender and religion
      • 3.4 Nature, culture and race
      • 3.5 Black reaction
      • Conclusion
      • Further research
    • 4 Biology, culture and genomics
      • 4.1 Darwin (again), genetics and the concept of population
      • 4.2 Boas and the separation of biology and culture
      • 4.3 Nazism, World War II and decolonisation
      • 4.4 UNESCO and after
      • 4.5 The persistence of race in science
      • 4.6 Race and IQ
      • 4.7 Race and sport
      • 4.8 Race, genomics and medicine: does race have a genetic basis?
      • 4.9 Race, genomics and medicine: racialising populations
      • Conclusion
      • Further activities
    • 5 Race in the era of cultural racism: politics and the everyday
      • 5.1 Introduction
      • 5.2 The institutional presence of race
      • 5.3 Race, nature and biology in the everyday world of culture
      • Conclusion
      • Further research
  • Part II Race in practice
    • 6 Latin America: mixture and racism
      • 6.1 Introduction
      • 6.2 Latin America and mestizaje
      • 6.3 Colombia: racial discrimination and social movements
      • 6.4 Structural disadvantage, region and mestizaje: lessons from Colombia
      • 6.5 Brazil: variations on a theme
      • 6.6 Guatemala: racial ambivalence
      • 6.7 Performing and embodying race in the Andes
      • Conclusion
      • Further research
    • 7 The United States and South Africa: segregation and desegregation
      • 7.1 Changing US demographics
      • 7.2 Caste and class in segregated Southern towns
      • 7.3 Black reaction and ‘desegregation’
      • 7.4 Segregation in practice: ‘the ghetto’
      • 7.5 Latinos and brownness
      • 7.6 South Africa
      • Conclusion
      • Further activities
    • 8 Race in Europe: immigration and nation
      • 8.1 European histories of race
      • 8.2 Issues in post-colonial migration in Europe
      • 8.3 White Britons in Leicestershire
      • 8.4 Asian Leicester
      • 8.5 The Asian gang in London
      • 8.6 Geographies of race in black Liverpool
      • 8.7 Algerians in France
      • Conclusion
      • Further activities
    • 9 Conclusion
      • 9.1 Theorising race
      • 9.2 Globalising race
      • 9.3 The future of race
    • References
    • Index
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Penn Lightbulb Café Presents ‘Fatal Invention: Re-creating Race in Genomic Era’

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-09-14 18:23Z by Steven

Penn Lightbulb Café Presents ‘Fatal Invention: Re-creating Race in Genomic Era’

World Cafe Live Upstairs
3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, September 15, 18:00-19:00 EDT (Local Time)

Dorothy Roberts, Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor; George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology, Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, Professor of Africana Studies, and director of the Program on Race, Science and Society
University of Pennsylvania

After the human genome was mapped, there was an unexpected resurgence of scientific interest in genetic differences between races. Some scientists are defining race as a biological category written in our genes, while the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries convert the new race science into race-based products, such as race-specific medicines and ancestry tests. Professor Roberts argues that the genetic interpretation of race is not only mistaken but also masks the continuing impact of racism in a supposedly post-racial society. Instead, she calls for affirming common humanity by working to end social inequities supported by the political system of race.

The talk is part of the Penn Lightbulb Café free public-lecture series presented by Penn Arts & Sciences and the Office of University Communications that takes arts, humanities and social-sciences scholarship out of the classroom for a night on the town. Each hour-long talk begins at 6 p.m., and the presentation will be followed by an audience Q&A. Café events are free and open to the public. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Seating is limited.

For more information, click here.

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Girl in need of bone marrow highlights shortage of mixed-race donors

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-14 00:40Z by Steven

Girl in need of bone marrow highlights shortage of mixed-race donors

The Chicago Tribune

Vikki Ortiz Healy

When doctors told Michelle Trujillo in July that her 6-year-old daughter would need a bone marrow transplant to save her life, the Crystal Lake mother didn’t want to wait another minute before getting her only child back to health.

But months later, Sophia — who has aplastic anemia, a rare disorder that impairs her immunity — is still waiting for a donor match. Meanwhile, Trujillo says she lies in bed at night making mental lists of places to try to find a donor with similar multiracial heritage to her daughter’s — a group with a strikingly low match rate.

“I don’t sleep at night. I think of, ‘What can I do now? Who can I contact now?’ ” said Trujillo, whose daughter is half Filipino, as well as Irish, Spanish and Italian. “One match is all we need, but it’s like a needle in a haystack.”

The Trujillos’ predicament highlights a nationwide paradox that has troubled medical experts and families awaiting transplants for years: despite the ever-growing diversity in the United States, there are not enough minority and multiracial donors registered and available for patients in need…

Read the entire article here.

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In its focus on genetics and race, global newspaper coverage of athletics is far from “post-racial”

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-09-13 02:27Z by Steven

In its focus on genetics and race, global newspaper coverage of athletics is far from “post-racial”

The LSE’s daily blog on American Politics and Policy
The London School of Economics and Political Science
London, United Kingdom

Matthew W. Hughey, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

Devon R. Goss, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology
University of Connecticut

With the years of racially segregated sports now long behind us, many would consider that sports coverage is color-blind and post-racial. In new research which examines newspaper coverage of race, sport and genetics from 2003 to 2014, Matthew W. Hughey and Devon R. Goss find that this is not the case. They write that the media persistently reinforces the notions that African American’s athletic success is based on biology, while whites’ comes from hard work and intelligence. They also debunk the ideas often seen in the media that race has a biological reality which can be defined by genes, and that the historic process of slavery somehow eliminated ‘weaker genes’ from the African American population, making them a more athletic race.

For many, sport represents the ultimate color-blind space, affording a level playing field where only one’s training and skills are the hallmarks of competition. Hence, racist and prejudicial beliefs and phenomena are both literally and figuratively, out-of-bounds. Moreover, sport has been understood as an activity that promotes racial harmony amongst both participants and observers. But such a claim is a bit simplistic.

To make sense of the correlation between different racial groups’ success and failures amidst different athletic events, many draw from the deep well of scientific racism to quench their thirst for explanatory knowledge. For instance, some research has found that many athletes believe that white sporting success is attributable to intelligence, while nonwhite success is accredited to genetically predisposed bodies—a longstanding cultural trope known as “white brains versus black brawn”—that has been around for at least a century. After African American boxer Jack Johnson became the heavyweight champion of the world in 1908, he precipitated a slow reconsideration of the assumption of nonwhites’ physical inferiority—a central tenet of early 20th century racial science and eugenics. Fast forward to our contemporary moment and the banal ubiquity of this trope among sports commentators is well known, and was even recently panned by the comic duo Key & Peele

Read the entire article here.

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Characterizing Race/Ethnicity and Genetic Ancestry for 100,000 Subjects in the Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging (GERA) Cohort

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-09 19:35Z by Steven

Characterizing Race/Ethnicity and Genetic Ancestry for 100,000 Subjects in the Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging (GERA) Cohort

August 1, 2015, Volume 200, Number 4
pages 1285-1295
DOI: 10.1534/genetics.115.178616

Yambazi Banda
Mark N. Kvale
Thomas J. Hoffmann
Stephanie E. Hesselson
Dilrini Ranatunga
Hua Tang
Chiara Sabatti
Lisa A. Croen
Brad P. Dispensa
Mary Henderson
Carlos Iribarren
Eric Jorgenson
Lawrence H. Kushi
Dana Ludwig
Diane Olberg
Charles P. Quesenberry Jr.
Sarah Rowell
Marianne Sadler
Lori C. Sakoda
Stanley Sciortino
Ling Shen
David Smethurst
Carol P. Somkin
Stephen K. Van Den Eeden
Lawrence Walter
Rachel A. Whitmer
Pui-Yan Kwok
Catherine Schaefer
Neil Risch

Using genome-wide genotypes, we characterized the genetic structure of 103,006 participants in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California multi-ethnic Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging Cohort and analyzed the relationship to self-reported race/ethnicity. Participants endorsed any of 23 race/ethnicity/nationality categories, which were collapsed into seven major race/ethnicity groups. By self-report the cohort is 80.8% white and 19.2% minority; 93.8% endorsed a single race/ethnicity group, while 6.2% endorsed two or more. Principal component (PC) and admixture analyses were generally consistent with prior studies. Approximately 17% of subjects had genetic ancestry from more than one continent, and 12% were genetically admixed, considering only nonadjacent geographical origins. Self-reported whites were spread on a continuum along the first two PCs, indicating extensive mixing among European nationalities. Self-identified East Asian nationalities correlated with genetic clustering, consistent with extensive endogamy. Individuals of mixed East Asian–European genetic ancestry were easily identified; we also observed a modest amount of European genetic ancestry in individuals self-identified as Filipinos. Self-reported African Americans and Latinos showed extensive European and African genetic ancestry, and Native American genetic ancestry for the latter. Among 3741 genetically identified parent–child pairs, 93% were concordant for self-reported race/ethnicity; among 2018 genetically identified full-sib pairs, 96% were concordant; the lower rate for parent–child pairs was largely due to intermarriage. The parent–child pairs revealed a trend toward increasing exogamy over time; the presence in the cohort of individuals endorsing multiple race/ethnicity categories creates interesting challenges and future opportunities for genetic epidemiologic studies.

Read or purchase the article here.

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