Culture: The missing link in health research

M. Kagawa Singer, W. Dressler, S. George, Claudia R. Baquet, Ronny A. Bell, Linda Burhansstipanov, Nancy J. Burke, Suzanne Dibble, William Elwood, Linda Garro, Clarence C. Gravlee, Peter Guarnaccia, Michael L. Hecht, Jeffrey Henderson, Dan Hruschka, Roberto Lewis-Fernández, Robert Like, Charles Mouton, Hector F. Myers, J. Bryan PageRena Pasick, Bernice Pescosolido, Nancy Schoenberg, Bradley Stoner, Gregory Strayhorn, Laura Szalacha, Joseph Trimble, Thomas S. Weisner, David Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Culture is essential for humans to exist. Yet surprisingly little attention has been paid to identifying how culture works or developing standards to guide the application of this concept in health research. This paper describes a multidisciplinary effort to find consensus on essential elements of a definition of culture to guide researchers in studying how cultural processes influence health and health behaviors. We first highlight the lack of progress made in the health sciences to explain differences between population groups, and then identify 10 key barriers in research impeding progress in more effectively and rapidly realizing equity in health outcomes. Second, we highlight the primarily mono-cultural lens through which health behavior is currently conceptualized, third, we present a consensus definition of culture as an integrating framework, and last, we provide guidelines to more effectively operationalize the concept of culture for health research. We hope this effort will be useful to researchers, reviewers, and funders alike.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-246
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cross-cultural health
  • Culture
  • Culture and health
  • Culture defined
  • Culture of science
  • Culture, race, and ethnicity
  • Health disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Culture: The missing link in health research'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this