Focusing on Minority Health Research

21 Jun

ImageEvery student has to grapple with deciding upon a suitable, interesting, and relevant Capstone project, thesis, or dissertation. The most common advice that many receive when facing this dilemma, is that they select a topic that they are most passionate about, and one that they already have a certain degree of knowledge about. For many minority, or “marginalized majority” students, the outcome is that they often choose topics that are focused on their own particular racial and/or ethnic group; and this is occasionally met with disdain or disapproval. Nevertheless, focused research, and the supportive efforts of organizations such as the Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues (SAAPHI), which looks at populations of African descent, including African American, African, Afro-Latino, and Afro-Caribbean; are indeed important and necessary.

Students and even early career professionals involved in research simply need to ask themselves, “If I don’t conduct the needed research, who will?” Meaning, if members of these minority groups do not take an interest in topics that greatly and disproportionately affect their racial/ethnic group, then it is highly unlikely that these groups will not be represented in the collected data and research process as a whole. In other words, without their focused lens of analysis, these populations would lack adequate representation, and the inequities and disparities that plague them would go unidentified and even more importantly unaddressed. Analysis carried out by researchers who are also members of the “subject” population serves as a means to draw attention to the needs of these sub-populations, and in terms of public health, helps to ensure that these community members are given a voice.

In addition, another benefit is that these researchers are peer experts, who understand the cultural and social norms of these respective minority groups, and who may be able to better to successfully bridge the gap of mistrust of the medical and health establishment; that these sub-populations harbor. Overall, students should not feel as if their work is diminished if they choose to focus on minority groups that they are members of and are familiar with. Their basic level of knowledge about these communities will actually serve as a benefit.

Cherise Charleswell, MPH

SAAPHI Governing Board


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