Author Archives: Sarah Gollust

No Fair? Public Opinion and the Fairness of Health Inequalities

Jun 13, 2011, 3:30 PM, Posted by Sarah Gollust

This post is part of an ongoing series of Voices from the Field by scholars, fellows and alumni of RWJF Human Capital programs. The author, Sarah Gollust, Ph.D., is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program. Read more about her latest research.

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In graduate school in public health, I was taught that health disparities are differences in health that are “avoidable, unfair, and unjust,” using Margaret Whitehead’s 1992 definition. Most readers of this blog would likely agree that health differences across groups defined by race, ethnicity, or social class are unfair. But does the American public agree? Does the public consider such differences across groups to be an injustice, or simply unfortunate? Do members of the public even know about disparities at all? And if they did, how would that knowledge affect their opinions about policy?

Arriving at Penn as a Health & Society Scholar in the summer of 2008, I was delighted to discover that Julie Lynch, Penn faculty member and an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Research program and an RWJF Investigators Award recipient, shared my curiosity regarding these questions. And—thrilling for a junior researcher like myself—she actually had the data to begin to address them.

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