Intended for healthcare professionals


Segregated health statistics perpetuate racial stereotypes

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 17 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1485
  1. George T H Ellison, Research managera,
  2. Thea de Wet, Project managerb,
  3. Carel B I Jsselmuiden, Headc,
  4. Linda M Richter, Headd
  1. a Institute of Urban Primary Health Care, Alexandra Health Centre and University Clinic, Johannesburg, South Africa
  2. b Birth to Ten, Urbanisation and Health Programme, Medical Research Council, Johannesburg, South Africa
  3. c Department of Community Health, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
  4. d Department of Psychology, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

    Editor—Unlike Alexander R P Walker, we welcome the desegregation of health statistics in South Africa1 and believe that the routine use of ethnic or racial categories in health research is often ill conceived, misleading, and divisive.2 It is ill conceived because using nationality and physical characteristics (such as African, European, black, and white) to differentiate between various groups tends to reinforce the discredited view that geographically isolated and genetically distinct human races exist. It is misleading because using these categories to assess disparities in health …

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