The Gerontologist Looks at Social Determinants of Health Through Racial Lens

Resulting from the first call for papers of its kind, The Gerontologist has published a new special issue, “Social Determinants of Health in the Context of Race and Age,” which offered those with an interest in intersectional scholarship an opportunity to apply non-traditional theories, methods, and analysis to the study of gerontology.

According to the World Health Organization, social determinants of health are non-medical factors affecting health outcomes that can be more significant than individual health care or lifestyle choices in influencing health

Brandy H Wallace, PhD, FGSA, and Suzanne Meeks, PhD, FGSA, writing in The Gerontologist’s opening editorial, state: “More than 35 years ago, Black feminist scholar Audre Lorde addressed the imperative to challenge dominant epistemological frames and methods. The ‘standard tools’ by which most disciplines, including gerontology, have built knowledge are not conducive to shifting our focus from simply documenting disparate treatment, whereby communities of color are often represented through a comparative lens, to equity in health promotion — grounded within culturally- and historically-relevant context.”

Wallace and Meeks also provide an excellent summary of the journal’s contents: “The authors in this issue present intersectional approaches to racialized aging and provide contemporary modes of interrogating the variation in the minority aging experience while also confirming the importance of disaggregating data. … Taken together, these papers reveal patterns and address gaps that are not often reported in gerontological studies of racial/ethnic minority older adults and emphasize the importance of various institutional efforts (e.g., policy initiatives and healthcare interventions) that focus on providing community-specific resources to underserved populations.”

This special issue serves as an excellent companion to an online collection on social determinants of health recently compiled by GSA’s journal publisher, Oxford University Press, as part its Health Equity Series. Among several dozen articles are 10 pulled from GSA’s own journals. Its contents will be freely available to read and share until August 31.