Skip to main content

Intersectionality, health equity, and EDI: What’s the difference for health researchers?


Many countries adopted comprehensive national initiatives to promote equity in higher education with the goal of transforming the culture of research. Major health research funders are supporting this work through calls for projects that focus on equity, resulting in a proliferation of theoretical frameworks including “intersectionality,” “health equity,” and variations of equity, diversity and inclusion, or EDI. This commentary is geared at individual principal investigators and health research teams who are developing research proposals and want to consider equity issues in their research, perhaps for the first time. We present histories and definitions of three commonly used frameworks: intersectionality, health equity, and EDI. In the context of health research, intersectionality is a methodology (a combination of epistemology and techniques) that can identify the relationships among individual identities and systems of oppression; however, it should also be used internally by research teams to reflect on the production of knowledge. Health equity is a societal goal that operationalizes the social determinants of health to document and address health disparities at the population level. EDI initiatives measure and track progress within organizations or teams and are best suited to inform the infrastructure and human resourcing “behind the scenes” of a project. We encourage researchers to consider these definitions and strive to tangibly move health research towards equity both in the topics we study and in the ways we do research.


The time for social justice in research and higher education, it seems, is now. Many countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States of America, adopted comprehensive national initiatives to promote equity in higher education with the goal of “deeper cultural change within the research ecosystem” [14]. Research funders and universities have employees, departments, and strategic plans dedicated to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and variations on this phrase.Footnote 1 While there is a new sense of urgency, this moment is embedded in an ongoing history of interventions from feminist and women’s studies scholars who call upon researchers to include gender as a category of analysis [56], and perhaps more difficult, for institutions and academic fields to include women as researchers and producers of knowledge [7]. There are parallel efforts addressing the inclusion of people of African/Black descent, people of color, people with disabilities, diverse gender identities, Indigenous people, and additional groups who are historically marginalized in higher education and research settings.Footnote 2

In the context of team-based health research, competitive funding supports large scale, high impact studies and is used as a key metric for individual career progression. The transformative EDI initiatives cited above acknowledge the importance of funding in academia and seek to redress systematic biases in research award allocations. A study looking at research funding gaps at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research found gender disparities related to “less favorable assessments of women as principal investigators" [8]. Notably the authors of the study were not able to analyze based on race or other relevant characteristics due to lack of data collection by the funding agency at that time [8]. In 2011, a landmark review of the National Institute of Health Research (USA) found “applications from white Principal Investigators (PIs) were 1.7 times more likely to be funded than applications from African-American/Black PIs” [9]; in 2019, this disparity still existed [1011]. There is a stark funding divide between research teams in the global north compared to those in the global south [12]. Yet, despite these documented gaps in research funding, it is also recognized that diverse research teams lead to more innovative research [13] and research that is more sensitive to the needs of equity-seeking communities [14].

In tandem with growing recognition of systematic bias in funding allocations, major health research funders call for research that focuses on equity topics [1519]. The growing interest in equity-oriented projects is laudable, but also leads to an influx of established researchers tackling the topic for the first time. Researchers describe a phenomenon dubbed “health equity tourism” [20], where (white) high impact researchers from other fields successfully apply to health equity funding opportunities building on their previous funding track record, producing research with easily avoidable mistakes. As Lett et al. explain, studying issues such as structural racism requires a careful, nuanced approach and collaboration with people with lived experience, and health equity “tourists” can incorrectly assume that their conventional research methods are transferable to this context [21]. The resulting studies fail to capture the complexity of racial disparities, do not produce meaningful or actionable results, and may even risk perpetuating racial stereotypes and biases. Similarly, Smith et al. 2018 argue health equity is too often divorced from social justice aims and focuses more on “proximal” disparities rather than structural drivers [22]. Some scholars argue that institutions and individuals tend to undertake EDI work in a performative manner, without actually confronting systemic causes of inequity and exclusion within their structures [2324].

In response to the growing demand for equity research balanced with the problem of health equity tourism, this commentary is geared at principal investigators and health research teams who are developing research proposals and want to consider equity issues in their research, perhaps for the first time. In particular, we distinguish three commonly used concepts: intersectionality, health equity, and EDI. We offer guidance for interdisciplinary health research teams at the conceptualization stage of their research projects and when deciding among these approaches. We present the history and definitions of each term and summarize key differences, similarities, and considerations for use. In the context of research, intersectionality is a methodology (a combination of epistemology and techniques) that can identify the relationships among individual identities and systems of oppression. Intersectionality typically includes an explicit commitment to social justice and is a common paradigm mobilized in grassroots activist settings. Health equity is a societal goal. As a research framework, health equity operationalizes the social determinants of health to document and address health disparities at the population level. EDI initiatives measure and track progress towards “diversity” within organizations or teams and are best suited to inform the infrastructure and human resourcing “behind the scenes” of a project. We encourage researchers to consider these definitions and strive to tangibly move health research towards equity both in the topics we study and in the ways we do research.

Defining intersectionality

Intersectionality posits that individual identities and social locations such as gender, race, and class intersect and reflect systems of oppression such as sexism and racism [25]. Intersectionality is attributed to critical race theorist and feminist legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw [25] and the activism of the Black, feminist, and lesbian Combahee River Collective (1977). In the late 1970s, these and other Black feminist activists and scholars, were excluded from both the women’s movement and the anti-racist movement [2627]. It is integral to reference this history when using intersectionality as the contributions of Black women scholars are often erased through abstraction. The overlap of multiple identities, or intersections, represent unique experiences that are overlooked by focusing on one identity over another [28]. As such, intersectionality helps explore differences within and among groups. Intersectionality typically includes an explicit commitment to social justice—that is, an aim to redistribute wealth, opportunities, and privileges at a societal level [29]. Achieving social justice would require a dramatic re-orientation of contemporary institutions, laws, and economic systems.

Intersectionality suggests that privilege and oppression shift based on context, and thus one may be privileged in one context but disadvantaged in another. For example, while all women may be subject to discrimination based on gender, Black women have distinct experiences of sexism and racism. Intersectionality is a successful theoretical and activist intervention. It is a core orientation in women’s and gender studies, remains commonly used as a paradigm in activist groups, is cited as a theoretical approach in many empirical studies [3032], and is a focal point for high-level theorizing [3334]. It is so successful that there are concerns that it may be a “buzzword” [3536].

In the context of health research, intersectionality shares affinities with other ideas from feminist methodologies and these perspectives are often gathered through qualitative research. For example, standpoint epistemology argues that people in the margins have clearer knowledge about structures of oppression than those at the centers, and so foregrounds marginalized voices [2637]. Intersectionality requires researchers to be reflexive of their own social locations and state a theoretical orientation (rather than attempt to control for bias) in protocols and publications [38]. Reflexivity applies to the entire research process, including the formation of the team, hiring, and recruitment of participants. There are also efforts to develop intersectionality measures to be used in survey research [3942]. However, intersectionality loses its historical connection when used only as a method in data collection/analysis rather than as a comprehensive methodology incorporating reflexivity on behind the scenes research processes [43]. That is, teams “using” intersectionality in their research must also “do” intersectionality through practices such as self-identification questionnaires to ensure diversity on the team, providing additional mentorship or opportunities to students and scholars who may face barriers in academia, and cultivating an awareness of bias and discrimination that can be perpetuated through research [44].

Defining health equity

Health equity is a societal goal of global and public health research and practice, seeking to eliminate unjust health disparities at the population level that are shaped by the social determinants of health [45]. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes: “Health equity is achieved when everyone can attain their full potential for health and well-being” [46]. Historical research traces the concept of health equity back as far as 1801, and the 1948 constitution of the WHO formally endorsed elements of the contemporary concept [47]. Health equity gained momentum and an explosion of interest in the 1990s following Marmot’s highly influential work on the social determinants of health [4850], that is “non-medical factors that influence health outcomes” [51]. Research framed with the social determinants of health has generated a significant technical evidence base that documents health disparities within and between populations through the use and creation of local, national and international health datasets [51].

In 2008, the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health outlined three principles of action required to achieve health equity: i) improve the conditions of daily life, ii) tackle structural drivers of health, that is the inequitable distribution of power, money, and resources, and iii) measure and evaluate outcomes [52]. The second action resonates with the definition of social justice mobilized in intersectionality, but this area of action proves the most difficult to apply in the context of health research. Braveman recently posited a complete definition of health equity that emphasizes structural drivers and social justice:

“Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, powerlessness, and their consequences—including lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, safe environments, and quality education, housing, and health care. For the purposes of measurement, health equity means reducing and ultimately eliminating disparities in health and its determinants that adversely affect excluded or marginalized groups.” [53].

As with intersectionality, surging popularity has led to some confusion. Specifically, not all measured differences in health outcomes qualify as health disparities, which refers to differences in health outcomes that occur among populations who are economically and/or socially disadvantaged [54]. Populations who systematically and persistently experience disadvantage include people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, racial or ethnic populations, women, Indigenous groups, and 2SLGBTQIA+ people. In a global health context, disadvantaged populations may also refer to the entire population of a low-income country.

Defining equity, diversity, and inclusion

Equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) is a policy-focused initiative aimed at addressing the ongoing exclusion of under-represented groups in employment, education, and other institutional contexts. EDI emerged out of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s as a “response to deeply entrenched patterns of racial discrimination” [55]. Early iterations emphasized increasing the numbers of people from groups that have been disadvantaged in the workplace [55]. While the policy context and development of EDI varies from country to country, it is generally recognized that the terms equity and diversity replace previous discourses of ‘affirmative action’, ‘equal opportunity’ and ‘employment equity’ in human resource policies [5657]. Further, EDI takes up the shortcomings of previous policies by moving beyond numerical representation to fostering meaningful, sustainable change toward inclusion in the workplace, education, and broader public sphere.

It is important to distinguish equity from equality. Equality refers to treating all people the same (e.g., offering the same opportunities), while equity refers to achieving fair outcomes, recognizing diversity, and addressing inequality through intervention [24]. Diversity refers to the welcoming and embracing of difference, in relation to social demographics as well as a diversity of perspectives and ideas [245859]. Inclusion is a critical component to EDI, representing the idea that it is not enough to invite a variety of people into institutions [23]. Inclusion is fostering an environment and culture that is welcoming and supports diverse individuals and/or groups of people, and may also require concrete changes (e.g., accommodations to address physical and social barriers to inclusion) [59].

There are other variations of the EDI acronym that bring their own histories and perspectives, most commonly the addition of “A” for access or accessibility, drawing on the history of disability rights and accessibility policies and legislation. There is sometimes a “D” to bring in the complex and unique experience of Indigenous people working towards decolonialization; this is more common in Canada and Australia than other countries with smaller Indigenous populations.

While EDI efforts typically focus on institutional level change, funding bodies are increasingly requiring researchers and research teams to implement EDI within their research designs (e.g., participants, budgeting lines for accessibility) and in research practices in a way that echoes feminist reflexivity. For example, the Canadian funding body, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council produced a guide to implementing EDI in research practice and research design [60]. EDI in research practice refers to “promoting diversity in team composition and trainee recruitment” and “fostering an equitable, inclusive and accessible research work environment” while EDI in research design might involve using “intersectionality, gender-based analysis plus, anti-racist approaches, and disaggregated data collection and analysis that includes consideration of diversity and identity factors” [60]. EDI can be used as an institutional mechanism for compelling health researchers to consider the exclusions of specific teams and projects.

Discussion: considerations for using each concept

Our brief historical explanations and definitions show that these three concepts overlap. The researchers, theorists, and activists were likely informed by each other’s contributions. Most notably, all three have an awareness of injustice among and within groups. Table 1 outlines the background of each concept, and their respective application to the health research context including the strengths and limitations of each concept. Further, we offer external resources for the application of each concept in Additional file 1: Appendix A.

Table 1 Summary Intersectionality, health equity and EDI

Considerations for intersectionality

There are three key considerations when using intersectionality in team-based health research context. First, it is important to assess team members’ level of comfort with committing to social justice or an explicitly feminist approach. Some scholars argue that research using intersectionality must openly strive towards social justice [33], while others argue that when people “use” intersectionality as a framework it will inadvertently achieve the same ends [6162]. Secondly, it is important to consider that intersectionality is the most coherent when applied as a methodology; that is, an approach that informs the composition of the research team, formation of the question, approach to recruitment, and a method used in data collection and analysis. Finally, with the exception of intersectionality measurement work, a common criticism is the difficulty in applying an intersectional framework in a concrete way. It can be challenging to: determine which intersections are relevant to a particular topic (as it is not possible to explore all intersections); whether gender must always be considered, and; how to approach Indigenous perspectives, some of whom do not want colonial legacies subsumed as one of many identities on an extensive list [63]. There are guides on how to apply intersectionality and a notable application is the gender-based analysis plus framework endorsed by the Canadian government. Overall, there are limited resources for a research context, and even fewer for studies using a quantitative or mixed-methods approach.

Considerations for health equity

Striving for health equity requires using a social determinants of health framework, which are widely established with numerous tools and models---so many that it can be overwhelming to choose a one for a given health research topic [64]. Nevertheless, the framework must be chosen with care as some fail to embrace consideration of the structural drivers of health and lack the ontological foundations to help understand the social complexity [6566]; some scholars in fact call for the incorporation of intersectionality to address this gap [4067].

Social justice is a fundamental principal of health equity, yet some research has tried to hold the two ideas as conceptually distinct, perhaps framing justice-based considerations as political and lacking in objectivity [68]. Braveman comments, “‘Equity’ means justice: and justice is often a contentious issue.” Only one-third of existing health equity frameworks help to identify causal factors while perhaps even fewer recognize that there are “causes of the causes” or “root causes” [66]. This is a weakness in the application of healthy equity rather than the conceptualization, as numerous authors and key reports emphasize the importance of structural drivers and a justice orientation. The core mandate for social transformation can be misapplied when researchers lack training in critical theories and anti-oppressive practice, and when health disparities are rooted in complex social phenomenon such as violence and poverty. The focus on populations rather than individual locations can erase complexity of those who occupy multiply-marginalized positions. Researchers should also pay attention to how health equity is understood in a given context and among the population(s) being studied.

Considerations for EDI

EDI is neither a methodology like intersectionality or a societal goal like health equity; yet is is a valuable organization tool for assessing and implementing change. When designing EDI policies, a critical consideration is to develop mechanisms of measurement and accountability. A concern of many EDI practitioners is that institutions may be appearing to ‘do EDI’ by having an employee, officer, or policy on the matter while not making any changes to the norms and practices that make it difficult to thrive in the institution or industry in the first place [2324]. To avoid this, EDI policies must be accompanied with concrete plans for tracking progress and a means of holding the members of an institution accountable to the policy.

Critiques of EDI have been raised that the softening of language from anti-racism to equity, diversity and inclusion masks the social justice origins of EDI [56]. As such, EDI plans must be explicit in their aims and approach EDI as an ongoing process of assessment, critical reflection, and revisions as needed. To make meaningful change with EDI, structural and systemic barriers must be considered and accounted for. In a research context, a major strength of EDI is that it can be applied to internal research practices of quantitative and mixed method research teams, without it having to be the theoretical framework of a study.

Finally, it is important to collaborate with members of groups that have been under-represented when developing EDI plans to ensure they meet the needs of the communities they aim to serve. It is equally important that individuals who have been multiply marginalized do not get saddled with the majority of EDI work. This is a common experience faced by women of colour and Black women in the academy who undertake significant often-invisible labour of advancing EDI, while their white colleagues continue to advance their research, thereby perpetuating the very inequities EDI means to address.


Intersectionality, health equity, and EDI can be used in tandem or independently, yet they are not interchangeable. In the context of health research, intersectionality is a methodology for identifying and understanding the relationships between identity and systems of oppression while health equity is a goal that calls us to focus on inequities at the population level; EDI emphasizes measuring progress and metrics to concretely demonstrate how an institution or team is moving towards equity, diversity, and inclusion.

An essential component of using each concept is ensuring that the research team (or organization) includes individuals who are well-versed in the nuances of each concept. This will help mitigate the risk of becoming a “buzzword” or heath equity tourism. Institutional EDI training may be an avenue to helping health researchers distinguish these frameworks, and the educational aspect of EDI is a core strength. In the case of intersectionality, this means including women’s and gender studies scholars, feminist, or critical race theorists, and significantly, people who are racialized and socially located in ways that result in lived experiences of marginalization. It is easier said than done in health research, as the disciplinary training and practices differ substantially and because of the historical exclusion of variously located people within health research. Health equity requires the consultation of public health researchers, or other researchers with an appropriate understanding of the social determinants of health, to ensure that the relevant structural drivers are considered. In implementing EDI plans or policies, it is vital the work be led by individuals with lived experience of systemic oppression as well as experienced EDI practitioners, while being careful not to over-burden individuals from groups that have been marginalized.

If the time for institutional transformation in health research is now, health researchers have plenty of tools at the ready to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in all aspects of academic work. While these concepts can be complementary, they are not interchangeable, and it is important to choose with intention to ensure the maximum effect of these frameworks.

Availability of data and materials

Not applicable.


  1. There are variations of this acronym, including Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). There are versions that highlight accessibility for people with disabilities, such as Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) or Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA). Some places work from a decolonial lens to address the injustices faced by Indigenous people, for example Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Decolonization (EDID). In this brief paper, we use EDI for simplicity.

  2. E.g., Black Health Education Collaborative (; Black Medical Students’ Association of Canada (; Coalition of Disability Access in Health Sciences Education (; Researching for LGBTQ Health (, and Well Living House (


  1. Government of Canada NS and ERC of C. NSERC - Dimensions [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2022 Jul 28]. Available from:

  2. Athena Swan Charter | Advance HE [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jul 28]. Available from:

  3. Science in Australia Gender Equity [Internet]. SAGE. [cited 2022 Jul 28]. Available from:

  4. SEA Change [Internet]. SEA Change. [cited 2022 Jul 28]. Available from:

  5. Eichler M, Lapointe J. On the treatment of the sexes in research. Ottawa, ON: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; 1985.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Holdcroft A. Gender bias in research: how does it affect evidence-based medicine? J R Soc Med. 2007;100(1):2–3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Wyer M, editor. Women, science, and technology: a reader in feminist science studies. New York: Routledge; 2001. p. 376.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Witteman HO, Hendricks M, Straus S, Tannenbaum C. Are gender gaps due to evaluations of the applicant or the science? A natural experiment at a national funding agency. Lancet. 2019;393(10171):531–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Ginther DK, Schaffer WT, Schnell J, Masimore B, Liu F, Haak LL, et al. Race, ethnicity, and NIH research awards. Science. 2011;333(6045):1015–9.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Taffe MA, Gilpin NW. Racial inequity in grant funding from the US National Institutes of Health. eLife. 2021;10(e65697) Available from: 2022 Jan 17].

  11. Hoppe TA, Litovitz A, Willis KA, Meseroll RA, Perkins MJ, Hutchins BI, et al. Topic choice contributes to the lower rate of NIH awards to African-American/black scientists. Sci Adv. 2019;5(10):eaaw7238.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Funder M, Albrecht P. Decolonising academic collaboration - south-north perspectives [Internet]. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS); 2022. p. 4. Available from:

    Google Scholar 

  13. Canada Research Coordinating Committee. Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research 2021. Available from:

  14. Chavez C. Conceptualizing from the Inside: Advantages, Complications, and Demands on Insider Positionality. Qual Rep. 2008;13(3):474–94.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Alvidrez J, Greenwood GL, Johnson TL, Parker KL. Intersectionality in Public Health Research: A View From the National Institutes of Health. Am J Public Health. 2021;111(1):95–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Collins FS, Adams AB, Aklin C, Archer TK, Bernard MA, Boone E, et al. Affirming NIH’s commitment to addressing structural racism in the biomedical research enterprise. Cell. 2021;184(12):3075–9.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Government of Canada CI of HR. CIHR Strategic Plan 2021-2031 - CIHR [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Jul 19]. Available from:

  18. Government of Canada CI of HR. 2022 Launch: Support Grant for Community-Led Projects on LGBTQIA/2S Wellness through an Intersectional Lens - CIHR [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Jul 19]. Available from:

  19. Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in research | NIHR [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jul 19]. Available from:

  20. McFarling UL. ‘Health equity tourists’: How white scholars are colonizing research on health disparities [Internet]. STAT. 2021; Available from: Cited 2022 Jul 20.

  21. Lett E, Adekunle D, McMurray P, Asabor EN, Irie W, Simon MA, et al. Health Equity Tourism: Ravaging the Justice Landscape. J Med Syst. 2022;46(3):17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. The SM. Diversity Gap in 2018: Where are the Indigenous Peoples at Canadian Universities? The Diversity Gap Canada. 2018; Available from: Cited 2021 Nov 5.

  23. Ahmed S. On being included: racism and diversity in institutional life. Durham: Duke University Press; 2012. p. 243.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  24. Henry F, James CE, Li P, Kobayashi A, Smith MS, Ramos H, et al. The equity myth: racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian universities 2017. Available from: Cited 2021 Nov 1

  25. Crenshaw K. Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Rev. 1990;1991(43):1241.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Collins PH. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. 2nd ed. New York NY: Routledge; 2009.

    Google Scholar 

  27. hooks bell. Ain’t I a woman: Black women and feminism. Cambridge MA: South End Press; 1981.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Combahee River Collective. Combahee River Collective Statement [Internet]. 1977. Available from:

  29. Social justice. In: Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press; 2022.

  30. Quinn K, Bowleg L, Dickson-Gomez J. “The fear of being Black plus the fear of being gay”: The effects of intersectional stigma on PrEP use among young Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Soc Sci Med. 2019 Jul;1(232):86–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Nguyen TV, King J, Edwards N, Dunne MP. “Under great anxiety”: Pregnancy experiences of Vietnamese women with physical disabilities seen through an intersectional lens. Soc Sci Med. 2021;1(284):114231.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Bastos JL, Harnois CE, Paradies YC. Health care barriers, racism, and intersectionality in Australia. Soc Sci Med. 2018;1(199):209–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Rice C, Harrison E, Friedman M. Doing justice to intersectionality in research Cult Stud ↔ Crit Methodol. 2019;19(6):409–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Hill Collins P. Intersectionality as critical social theory. Durham: Duke University Press; 2019. p. 360.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  35. Mason CL, Watson AD. What’s Intersectional about Intersectionality Now? Atlantis. 2017;38(1):3–6.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Davis K. Intersectionality as buzzword: A sociology of science perspective on what makes a feminist theory successful. Fem Theory. 2008 Apr;9(1):67–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Haraway D. Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Fem Stud. 1988;14(3):575–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. England KVL. Getting personal: Reflexivity, positionality, and feminist research. Prof Geogr. 1994;46(1):80–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Bauer GR. Incorporating intersectionality theory into population health research methodology: Challenges and the potential to advance health equity. Soc Sci Med. 2014;110:10–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Green MA, Evans CR, Subramanian SV. Can intersectionality theory enrich population health research? Soc Sci Med. 2017;178:214–6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Hankivsky O, Grace D. Understanding and emphasizing difference and intersectionality in multimethod and mixed methods research. In: Hesse-Biber SN, Johnson RB, editors. The Oxford Handbook of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research Inquiry [Internet]. e-book: Oxford University Press; 2015. Available from: Cited 2020 May 6.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Scheim AI, Bauer GR. The Intersectional Discrimination Index: Development and validation of measures of self-reported enacted and anticipated discrimination for intercategorical analysis. Soc Sci Med. 2019;1(226):225–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Rotz S, Rose J, Masuda J, Lewis D, Castleden H. Toward intersectional and culturally relevant sex and gender analysis in health research. Soc Sci Med. 2021;114459.

  44. Kelly C, Kasperavicius D, Duncan D, Etherington C, Giangregorio L, Presseau J, et al. ‘Doing’ or ‘using’ intersectionality? Opportunities and challenges in incorporating intersectionality into knowledge translation theory and practice. Int J Equity Health. 2021;20(1):187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Braveman P. What is health equity: and how does a life-course approach take us further toward it? Matern Child Health J. 2014;18(2):366–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. World Health Organization. Health equity [Internet]. Available from:

  47. Yao Q, Li X, Luo F, Yang L, Liu C, Sun J. The historical roots and seminal research on health equity: a referenced publication year spectroscopy (RPYS) analysis. Int J Equity Health. 2019;18(1):152.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Marmot MG, Smith GD, Stansfield S, Patel C, North F, Head J, et al. Health inequalities among British civil servants: The Whitehall II study. Lancet. 1991;337:1387–93.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  49. Marmot MG, Wilkinson RG. Social determinants of health: Oxford University Press; 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Marmot MG. Social determinants of health inequalities. Lancet. 2005;365:1099–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. World Health Organization. Health topics: Social determinants of health [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Feb 25]. Available from:

  52. Marmot M, Friel S, Bell R, Houweling TA, Taylor S. Closing the gap in a generation: health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Lancet. 2008;372(9650):1661–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Braveman P. Defining Health Equity - ClinicalKey. J Natl Med Assoc [Internet]. 2022 Article in press, corrected proof [cited 2022 Nov 7]; Available from:!/content/playContent/1-s2.0-S0027968422001432?scrollTo=%23bib0012

  54. Braveman P. What are health disparities and health equity? We need to be clear. Public Health Rep Wash DC 1974. 2014;129 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):5–8.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Agócs C, Burr C. Employment equity, affirmative action and managing diversity: assessing the differences. Int J Manpow. 1996;17(4/5):30–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Ahmed S. Living a feminist life: Duke University Press; 2017.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  57. Morrish L, O’Mara K. Queering the discourse of diversity. J Homosex. 2011 Jul;58(6–7):974–91.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Tamtik M, Guenter M. Policy Analysis of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategies in Canadian Universities – How Far Have We Come? Can J High Educ. 2019;49(3):41–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Equity, diversity and inclusion [Internet]. Rady Faculty of Health Sciences policies. 2020. Available from:

  60. Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada. Guide to Addressing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Partnership Grant Applications [Internet]. Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council. Available from:

  61. Cho S, Crenshaw KW, McCall L. Toward a field of intersectionality studies: theory, applications, and praxis. Signs J Women Cult Soc. 2013 Jun;38(4):785–810.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Hill Collins P, Bilge S. Intersectionality. Cambridge, UK ; Malden, MA: Polity Press; 2016. (Key concepts series).

  63. Institute for Intersectionality Research and Policy. Summary of themes: Dialogue on intersectionality and Indigeneity. Vancouver: Simon Fraser University; 2012.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Pauly B, Martin W, Perkin K, van Roode T, Kwan A, Patterson T, et al. Critical considerations for the practical utility of health equity tools: a concept mapping study. Int J Equity Health. 2018;17(1):48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Golden TL, Wendel ML. Public Health’s Next Step in Advancing Equity: Re-evaluating Epistemological Assumptions to Move Social Determinants From Theory to Practice. Front Public Health. 2020 May;7(8):131.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Davison CM, Ndumbe-Eyoh S, Clement C. Critical examination of knowledge to action models and implications for promoting health equity. Int J Equity Health. 2015 Dec;14(1):49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Lapalme J, Haines-Saah R, Frohlich KL. More than a buzzword: How intersectionality can advance social inequalities in health research. Crit Public Health. 2020;30(4):494–500.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Smith MJ, Thompson A, Upshur REG. Is ‘health equity’ bad for our health? A qualitative empirical ethics study of public health policy-makers’ perspectives. Can J Public Health. 2018;109(5):633–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research project grant PJT-169001.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Kelly outlined the article and wrote the material on intersectionality; Dansereau compiled the material on health equity and Sebring on EDI. Other co-authors reviewed and commented and are listed in alphabetical order. Hamilton-Hinch is listed as the senior author in recognition of her expertise in the field. The authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christine Kelly.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kelly, C., Dansereau, L., Sebring, J. et al. Intersectionality, health equity, and EDI: What’s the difference for health researchers?. Int J Equity Health 21, 182 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: