National Academy of Medicine

Life Span and Legal/Policy Research as Dual Focuses for Identifying and Implementing Opportunities to Realize Health Equity

By Patrick H. Tolan, Velma McBride Murry, Angela Diaz, and Robert Seidel
October 24, 2016 | Discussion Paper

Our perspective is grounded in the proposition that health equity should be central or more significant than any other concern, principle, criterion, or value when prioritizing a national scientific agenda, setting care goals, organizing research and evaluation, and formulating practice advisories and policy. The lens of how a given topic or task relates to health equity or lack thereof should be front and center.

Use of this framework has the potential to advance health equity as a priority for our nation and entails not simply favoring diversity of samples, attending to epidemiological variations, and mounting good faith efforts for greater access to care for those with fewer resources, but encompasses the integration of health equity as fundamental in formulating specific scientific questions as well as framing the overall research agenda. Viewing health equity as a core concept of social justice includes tending to all aspects of scientific inquiry, including research designs and methods and the organizing, interpreting, and evaluating of scientific findings. We do not suggest that ideas presented here are novel, as we are not the first to argue for this approach. Nor do we claim to provide detailed comprehensive arguments addressing the numerous issues that arise in privileging this perspective over other frameworks that have emerged to address health equity and justice. With this disclaimer, we begin our discussion outlining the foundation, implications, and some key features of and basis for our position noted here, and will delve into a few of the primary ensuing implications.



Suggested Citation

Tolan, P. H., V. McBride Murry, A. Diaz, and R. Seidel. 2016. Life Span and Legal/Policy Research as Dual Focuses for Identifying and Implementing Opportunities to Realize Health Equity. NAM Perspectives. Discussion Paper, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC. doi: 10.31478/201610c


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.