Descriptive Analysis of the 2014 Race-Based Healthcare Disparities Measurement Literature

Melody S. Goodman, Keon L. Gilbert, Darrell Hudson, Laurel Milam, Graham A. Colditz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: There are more than 500 articles in the 2014 race-based healthcare disparities literature across a broad array of diseases and outcomes. However, unlike many other forms of research (e.g., clinical trials and systematic reviews), there are no required reporting guidelines when submitting results of disparities studies to journals. Objective: This study describes the race-based healthcare disparities measurement literature in terms of study design, journal characteristics, generation of health disparities research, type of disparity measure used, and adherence to disparities measurement guidelines. Methods: We searched three databases of peer-reviewed literature, PubMed, Ovid Medline, and JSTOR, for English language articles published in 2014 on racial/ethnic healthcare disparities. Studies must have quantitatively measured the difference in health outcomes between two racial/ethnic groups in order to be included. Our final sample included 266 studies from 167 medical and public health journals. Findings: Only 7 % (n = 19) of articles reported both an absolute and relative measure of disparity; the majority of studies (64 %, n = 171) reported only a relative measure of effect. Most studies were published in clinical journals (74 %, n = 198), used secondary data (86 %, n = 229), and calculated black-white disparities (82 %, n = 218). The most common condition studied was cancer (25 %, n = 67), followed by a surgical procedure (18 %, n = 48). On average, articles in the sample only met 61 % of the applicable guidelines on reporting of disparities. Conclusions and Relevance: To be able to synthesize findings in the racial disparities literature (meta-analysis), there is a need for the use of consistent methods for quantifying disparities and reporting in the literature. A more consistent battery of measures and consistent reporting across studies may help speed our understanding of the origins and development of solutions to address healthcare disparities. Despite guidelines for best practices in reporting disparities, there is a lack of adherence in the current literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)796-802
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Descriptive analysis
  • Literature review
  • Measures
  • Methods
  • Racial health disparities
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Descriptive Analysis of the 2014 Race-Based Healthcare Disparities Measurement Literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this