Understanding Disparities in Persons with Multiple Chronic Conditions: Research Approaches and Datasets. 6.1.3 Potential Risks of Improved Coding of Small Subgroups


More accurate and expanded demographic information in healthcare enables investigators to document equity and disparities among different patients groups (Brooks & King, 2008). However, with the ability to obtain detailed information on small populations come potential risks:

  • Healthcare disparities may be perpetuated by assigning individuals to socially constructed, yet government-defined categories. In addition, assignment to racial categories can take emphasis away from other important determinants of health (Brooks & King, 2008).
  • Scientific racism is possible due to the ability to “link” race to specific disease. For example, if a condition occurs more commonly in one population vs. another, or if one population is more susceptible to a condition vs. another, then a high-risk population is at risk of being discriminated against, such as denial of health coverage (Brooks & King, 2008).
  • Several key informants cautioned that because race/ethnicity data can be used to discriminate, it is important to engage local communities and ensure that the population being studied is aware of and endorses the purpose of the research.

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