Difference matters

Approaches for acknowledging diversity in health geography research

Authored by: Melissa Giesbrecht

Routledge Handbook of Health Geography

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138098046
eBook ISBN: 9781315104584
Adobe ISBN:


 Download Chapter



Despite the vast diversity that characterizes our human population, research in health and social sciences tends to focus on singular dominant identities and population groups (men, women, children, etc.). It is true that categorizing people into single, distinct population groups is much easier for researchers, but according to Wilkinson, “[i]t has become increasingly apparent … that this way of doing research is rather limited in its ability to accurately represent the complexity of social life” (2003, p. 27). Particularly in the field of health, this approach to research has come under scrutiny from an increasing number of experts, as the scope of existing identities are not fully captured, and, as a result, meaningful and adequate solutions to health disparities are not realized (Hankivsky and Christoffersen, 2008). For example, if sex and gender were not adequately taken into account in earlier cardiovascular research, we would not now know that cardiovascular disease occurs ten years later in women than men, or that there are social differences in gender-related risk factors, such as smoking, depression, low income, obesity and lack of physical activity (Health Canada, 2010). Without acknowledging differences between groups of women, it would also not have been found that Indigenous women experience rates of diabetes five times higher than all other women in Canada (Health Canada, 2010). Such early research shows that some differences matter for how health is obtained and experienced. Meanwhile, these and other earlier studies have not fully embraced unpacking the true range of diversity that exists among people and populations – a challenge that now faces contemporary health researchers.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.