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June 17, 1992

The Use of Race in Medical Research

Author Affiliations

National Center for Health Statistics Hyattsville, Md

JAMA. 1992;267(23):3150. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480230042011

To the Editor.  —The Commentary entitled "The Use of Race in Medical Research" by Drs Osborne and Feit1 is an articulate response to a question asked with some frequency in medical research today: Is race a valid characteristic by which to describe health status and health outcome? The authors' response is no. They conclude that race is highly correlated with social, economic, and political factors and therefore has no separate value in medical research. However, it is just that relationship of race to economic and social factors in our society that makes race a meaningful variable by which to describe and analyze health outcomes.Countless studies show significant racial and ethnic disparities in every aspect of health from infant mortality, to chronic disease prevalence and disability, to life-styles and health habits, to access to quality health care.2 Race is a powerful correlate of health outcomes and points to