Cultural Equivalence of Health Behavior Theories and Concepts in Diverse Populations

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Principal Investigator: Marjorie Kagawa-Singer

Culture is fundamental to human life. Yet its influence on health behavior is sorely lacking in public health research. Culture is often cited as an underlying cause of health disparities, yet it is rarely defined and operationalized appropriately in health research. Lacking standardization of the definition of culture and its operationalization, researchers are left to devise their own measures for application. Such approaches tend not to be systematically grounded in the science of culture, tested for cross-cultural validity and equivalence, or conceptually comprehensive and nuanced enough to accurately assess the interaction of risk factors known or suspected to impact disease prevalence, morbidity, and mortality in all population groups. Instead, culture is erroneously conflated with race and ethnicity as a dichotomous, individual-level, static variable rather than as a multi-dimensional, fluid construct embedded in a multi-level social, political, historical and ecologic system. The cultural lens of the researcher is also often ignored, for we formulate our questions from our world view. The national emphasis on increasing the diversity of our researchers is meant to address this oversight, for different perspectives and experiences also generate new questions that are often more inclusive of diverse population groups and expand the relevancy of our health behavior theories.

Project Staff

Minelle David
(310) 794-6604
emdavid [at]

Annalyn Valdez
(310) 794-6604
avaldez [at]