Allostatic load and health disparities: A theoretical orientation

Authors

  • E.D. Carlson,

    Corresponding author
    1. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Department of Epidemiology, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Unit 189, Houston, Texas, 77090
    • The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Department of Epidemiology, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Unit 189, Houston, Texas, 77090.
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    • Postdoctoral Fellow.

  • R.M. Chamberlain

    1. Department of Epidemiology, Cancer Prevention Education and Teaching Program, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Unit 189, Houston, Texas, 77090
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    • Director.


  • This research was supported in part by a cancer prevention fellowship supported by the National Cancer Institute grant R25 CA57730, Robert M. Chamberlain, Ph.D., Principal Investigator. We would also like to thank members of the Plexus Institute for introducing complexity science concepts to the ideas developed in this manuscript.

Abstract

Eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities requires restructuring the biomedical models that have focused on the individual as the level of analysis and emphasized the parts rather than the whole. A recently developed understanding of human physiology and adaptive regulation, constructs of allostasis and allostatic load, provides a theoretical orientation that needs to be explored. Thus, the purpose of this article is to present an orientation of allostasis and allostatic load as a theoretical framework for exploring health disparities. This article will (a) present a general background on the evolution of relevant physiologic theories, (b) offer the general theoretical definitions and explanations of allostasis, allostatic load, and mediation processes, (c) examine empirical evidence for the constructs, and (d) discuss the implications of this orientation for health disparities research. © Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 28:306–315, 2005

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