Health Disparities: A Life Course Health Development Perspective and Future Research Directions

This is one of 26 chapters published in the Handbook of Life Course Health Development.


Abstract: Historically, research examining health status disparities between members in different socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic groups often focused on adults and the concurrent lifestyle factors that might explain health differentials. Recent years have witnessed an explosion of interest in the developmental origins of adult health and disease, and life course-oriented research has proliferated across the social, biological, and health sciences. This chapter describes how an integrated life course health development framework can be applied to advance our understanding of the dynamic and multilevel processes contributing to health disparities across lifetimes and even generations. Examples of recent research that has examined health status disparities from a life course perspective are provided, and research gaps and challenges are reviewed. The chapter concludes with a set of recommendations for a more strategic and responsive life course-informed research agenda that not only can fill in gaps in current knowledge, but also pave the way for the translation of this knowledge into improvement in practice, programs, and policy aimed at alleviating health disparities.



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