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Keywords:

  • Health care disparities;
  • smoking;
  • lung cancer;
  • race/ethnicity;
  • socioeconomic status;
  • gender

Objective

To illustrate the complex patterns that emerge when race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), and gender are considered simultaneously in health care disparities research and to outline the needed research to understand them by using disparities in lung cancer risks, treatment, and outcomes as an example.

Principal Findings

SES, gender, and race/ethnicity are social categories that are robust predictors of variations in health and health services utilization. These are usually considered separately, but intersectionality theory indicates that the impact of each depends on the others. Each reflects historically and culturally contingent variations in social, economic, and political status. Distinct patterns of risk and resilience emerge at the intersections of multiple social categories and shape the experience of health, health care access, utilization, quality, and outcomes where these categories intersect. Intersectional approaches call for greater attention to understand social processes at multiple levels of society and require the collection of relevant data and utilization of appropriate analytic approaches to understand how multiple risk factors and resources combine to affect the distribution of disease and its management.

Conclusions

Understanding how race/ethnicity, gender, and SES are interactive, interdependent, and social identities can provide new knowledge to enhance our efforts to effectively address health disparities.