The Science of Health Disparities Research

“The Science of Health Disparities Research” is an indispensable source of up-to-date information on clinical and translational health disparities science. Building upon the advances in health disparities research over the past decade, this authoritative volume informs policies and practices addressing the diseases, disorders, and gaps in health outcomes that are more prevalent in minority populations and socially disadvantaged communities.

Contributions by recognized scholars and leaders in the field—featuring contemporary research, conceptual models, and a broad range of scientific perspectives—provide an interdisciplinary approach to reducing inequalities in population health, encouraging community engagement in the research process, and promoting social justice.

Ross Hammond, Betty Bofinger Brown Associate Professor at the Brown School, contributed a chapter titled “Complex Systems Science.”

A complex adaptive system is one in which elements interact and change over time, generating system-level patterns that may not be uniform or intuitive. This often creates challenges for traditional quantitative analytic techniques, which rely on strict assumptions about independence. Many social phenomena are best characterized as complex adaptive systems. This perspective allows for a deeper understanding of how social phenomena operate, and why policies may have effects that are unexpected or differ across contexts.

Health disparities involve a tangled web of influences, defined in terms of populations of individuals who evolve and co-evolve over time in varied and dynamic contexts. This makes analytical tools from complex systems science well suited to improving our understanding of both determinants of, and solutions to, these problems.

In the chapter, Hammond and his co-authors describe how such tools can be used to address critical questions in minority health and health disparities research.

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