The Black–White Perception Gap and Health Disparities Research


  • Elizabeth D. Carlson is a Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Epidemiology, Division of Cancer Prevention and Education, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. Robert M. Chamberlain is Director, Cancer Prevention Education and Teaching Program, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Elizabeth D. Carlson, 3626 Valley Haven, Houston, TX 77339. E-mail:


Abstract  Reducing and eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities has become a national research priority. This research agenda requires new research frameworks that encompass the social determinants of health and the translation pathways of these social contexts into physiological morbidity. Within these sociobiological research frameworks, identity and emotions are seen as crucial links in the causal pathways from stressors to biological responses. In this country, the lived social reality of African American individuals is experienced through the color of their skin. Their identity is bound with the racial inequities of our society. It has been suggested that the emotions of anger and frustration resulting from this institutionalized racial discrimination are an emotional causative pathway to the pathophysiology contributing to the health disparities experienced by African Americans. However, as much as we espouse the concept of cultural competency in health care, until recently, there has been very little honest dialogue about how race and racism influences health. This article will explore the Black–White cultural perception gap and attempt to provide insight on the relationship to African American health and implications for health disparities research.