Commentary: Race and ethnicity in biomedical research - Classifications, challenges, and future directions

Dame Idossa, Narjust Duma, Katerina Chekhovskiy, Ronald Go, Sikander Ailawadhi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The use of race and ethnicity in biomedical research has been a subject of debate for the past three decades. Initially the two major race categories were: White and Black, leaving other minorities uncounted or inappropriately misclassified. As the science of health disparities evolves, more sophisticated and detailed information has been added to large databases. Despite the addition of new racial classifications, including multiracial denominations, the quality of the data is limited to the data collection process and other social misconceptions. Although race is viewed as an imposed or ascribed status, ethnicity is an achieved status, making it a more challenging variable to include in biomedical research. Ambiguity between race and ethnicity often exists, ultimately affecting the value of both variables. To better understand specific health outcomes or disparities of groups, it is necessary to collect subgroup-specific data. Cultural perceptions and practices, health experiences, and susceptibility to disease vary greatly among broad racial-ethnic groups and requires the collection of nuanced data to understand. Here, we provide an overview of the classification of race and ethnicity in the United States over time, the existing challenges in using race and ethnicity in biomedical research and future research directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-564
Number of pages4
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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© 2018 ISHIB. All rights reserved.


  • Biomedical Research
  • Ethnicity
  • Health Disparities
  • Race


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