White, European, Western, Caucasian, or What?

Race variable debate in American Journal of Public Health.


Bhopal, Raj and Liam Donaldson (1998). "White, European, Western, Caucasian, or What? Inappropriate Labeling in Research on Race, Ethnicity, and Health." American Journal of Public Health 88(9): 1303-1312.

Abstract: The quest for scientifically appropriate terminology in research on race, ethnicity, and health has largely bypassed the term "white." This and other words such as "Caucasians" are embedded in clinical and epidemiological discourse, yet they are rarely defined.... This paper widens the debate on nomenclature for racial and ethnic groups. Many issues need exploration, including whether there is a shared understanding among the international research community of the terms discussed.


Fullilove, M. T. (1998). "Comment: Abandoning "Race" as a Variable in Public Health Research - An Idea Whose Time Has Come." American Journal of Public Health 88(9): 1297-1298.

Conclusion: I believe it is time to abandon race as a variable in public health research. Following the illusion of race cannot provide the information we need to resolve the health problems of populations. Following Bhopal and Donaldson's proposal would lead to new questions, new variables and new solutions. We face the opportunity to invent a new science that embodies the human rights and civil rights essential to the health of human populations.


Pfeffer, Naomi (1998). "Theories of Race, Ethnicity and Culture." British Medical Journal 317: 1381-1384.

Summary Points: Race, ethnicity, and culture should not be perceived as problematic "facts" or "things".

The category "white" is too broad - and often meaningless.

Research into the relevance of race, ethnicity, and culture should address everyone's health, not just that of the victims of inequality.

Globilisation, displacement, and social movements are undermining the capacity of one nation to fix people's identity.

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