Health, inequality and the politics of genes

Patrick M. Whittle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Research into the possible genetic basis of health inequalities between different ethnic or racial groups raises many scientific, ethical and political concerns. Proponents of such research point to the possible benefits for marginalised groups of understanding genetic influences on health outcomes; opponents indicate the potential social costs, citing historical use of Darwinian concepts to explain and justify inequalities between different peoples. Many health researchers may avoid the subject due to its potential for controversy - e.g. the recent media furore over the so-called 'warrior gene', and its apparent genetic explanations for negative health and social statistics among Maori. This article argues for a more nuanced account of the evolutionary history of marginalised groups such as Maori, one that accepts the possibility of relevant genetic differences between sub-populations, but which also acknowledges genuine ethical and political concerns. Such an account may assist health researchers in addressing the politically sensitive subject of 'race' and social inequality.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Zealand Medical Journal
Issue number1320
Publication statusPublished - Aug 13 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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