National Academy of Medicine

Health Inequities, Social Determinants, and Intersectionality

By Nancy López and Vivian L. Gadsden
December 05, 2016 | Discussion Paper

In this essay, we focus on the potential and promise that intersectionality holds as a lens for studying the social determinants of health, reducing health disparities, and promoting health equity and social justice. Research that engages intersectionality as a guiding conceptual, methodological, and praxis-oriented framework is focused on power dynamics, specifically the relationships between oppression and privilege that are intrinsic to societal practices. Intersectional knowledge projects aimed at studying this interplay within and across systems challenge the status quo. Whether reframing existing conceptualizations of power, implementing empirical research studies or working with community organizations and global social movements, intersectional inquiry and praxis are designed to excavate the ways in which a person’s multiple identities and social positions are embedded within systems of inequality. Intersectionality also is attentive to the need to link individual, institutional, and structural levels of power in a given socio-historical context for advancing health equity and social justice.



Suggested Citation

Lopez, N. and V. L. Gadsden. 2016. Health Inequities, Social Determinants, and Intersectionality. NAM Perspectives. Discussion Paper, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC. doi: 10.31478/201612a


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.