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Constructing a South Asian cardiovascular disease: a qualitative analysis on how researchers study cardiovascular disease in South Asians
  1. Bradley Kawano
  1. Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, and History of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Bradley Kawano, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC 27708, USA; bradley.kawano{at}duke.edu

Abstract

Background Debates on the use of race in biomedical research have typically overlooked immigrant groups outside of the black-white racial dichotomy. Recent biomedical research on South Asians and cardiovascular disease provides an opportunity to understand how scientists define race and interpret racial health disparities from an underexamined perspective.

Purpose To examine how researchers in the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study defined a South Asian population, and then compared health differences between South Asians and other populations.

Methods Qualitative content analysis was performed on eleven articles from August 2013 to January 2021 that directly compared the South Asian cohort in MASALA to four other groups. The MASALA study design article was also included in this analysis. Articles were analysed for how South Asians were defined, and for how health differences between South Asians and other populations were studied and discussed.

Results Researchers in MASALA were neither clear nor precise in defining South Asians as either an ancestral group or ethnic group. Their studies also prioritised investigating genetic and molecular causes of the cardiovascular health disparity between South Asians and other populations and failed to examine possible social factors.

Conclusions These findings reflect a broader trend in biomedical research in which race and racial health disparities are poorly defined and studied, limiting scientists’ understanding of the relationship between race and health. I propose methodologies to help researchers define populations and design studies without relying on biologically reductive assumptions.

  • philosophy
  • ethics- medical
  • ethics- research
  • heart
  • demography

Data availability statement

Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study. Not applicable.

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Data availability statement

Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study. Not applicable.

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @BradleyKawano

  • Contributors BK designed the study, collected and analysed the data, drafted the manuscript and made all revisions. BK is the sole guarantor of this work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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