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Guiding Principles to Move From Health InEquity to Equity In Health

The result is that the RGDH is well-positioned to address a wide variety of health disparities through the systematic application of sound ethical principles that guide the execution of our mission, ensuring high quality in our multi-faceted work. These principles include a commitment to ensuring movement in the global community “From Health InEquity to Equity In Health”—the RGDH motto encompassing our vision and mission, effectively guiding all that we do. This commitment to those populations experiencing health inequity finds expression in research, practice, and scholarship focused on the disproportionate burden of illness, disease, and death experienced by those groups suffering from health inequity. This burden is well-documented in statistics on disparities in health conditions; for example, those groups experiencing excess morbidity and mortality from HIV/AIDS, diabetes, heart disease, cancer (lung, prostate, breast, etc…), and violence—to name just a few.

A Focus on the Social Context: Avoiding Blame-The-Victim and Deficit-Oriented Research

The other principles guiding our mission include the importance of research, practice, and scholarship rooted in an appreciation of the larger social context in which health disparities occur. An important goal is to train researchers, practitioners, and scholars so they avoid engaging in “blame-the victim” or “deficit-oriented” research, as well as an approach that tends to locate factors explaining disparities that are located in the one suffering from inequities. The alternative promoted involves investigating and focusing upon multiple factors and their complex inter-relationships; this includes those in the larger social context, sources of stress in the social context, adaptive strengths in the population, evidence of resiliency, and effective coping strategies in response to stress. This includes a focus on the stress associated with racism and/or oppression and the multitude of ways in which this may be expressed and made manifest. This focus is in addition to a focus on the role of demographic and other subject variables, permitting attention to potential disparities in employment, income, socioeconomic status, housing, and exposure to environmental toxins and health hazards. The result is an appreciation of a multitude of factors that go beyond locating factors related to disparities as largely individual-level phenomena—consistent with avoiding a blame-the-victim or deficit-oriented research approach.

Consistency With Other Important Trends in Thought

In this manner, the RGDH vision and mission takes a refreshing new direction. It is one that values principles and practices consistent with important trends in other fields, such as Multiculturalism, Positive Psychology, a Strengths-Based Approach, or Optimistic Thinking/Learned Optimism. Another resultant goal is to include a focus on conceptualizing and documenting subjects’ strengths, evidence of resiliency, and effective coping strategies. A focus on effective and adaptive coping strategies—even in the face of a stressful social context—provides an important foundation of knowledge. In some cases, problem behaviors that contribute to disparities in health (i.e., sexual behavior, eating patterns, violent behavior, etc….) emerge as reflecting, to some degree, attempts to cope and adapt in a stressful social context. A focus can then be placed upon which attempts to cope with stress in the social context reflect maladaptive affective, behavioral, and cognitive coping responses versus those that seem to reflect adaptive affective, behavioral and cognitive coping responses. In this manner, a population can be approached in research as being able to reveal much more than the prevalence of a disease entity or problem behavior. The population can be approached as holding important information about both the prevalence of maladaptive and adaptive coping responses, given stress and the larger social context. This information on adaptive coping responses can serve as evidence of strengths and resilience, as well as form the basis for recommendations with regard to the content of future health education and health promotion campaigns. In addition, this information may find not only practical intervention through practice, but also utilized in consultation work, community-based media campaigns, and social marketing campaigns.