Minority Health Key Terms

Minority Health Key Terms


Civil rights
Rights individuals have in their role as citizens in relation to the state.

Collective rights
Rights associated with a community or people.


Direct discrimination
Any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life (ICERD).


Forcible assimilation
Policies which seek to forcibly incorporate a minority group into the majority population by erasing any distinctiveness in culture, religion, language, or practices.


Gender equity
Equality in social roles and opportunities available to women and men.


Health equity
Concern with reducing unequal opportunities for health associated with membership in a less privileged social group, such as an ethnic minority.

Health inequality
Systematic and potentially remediable differences in one or more aspects of health across populations or population groups defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically.


Indigenous people
People descended from populations which inhabited the country at the time of conquest or colonization, or the establishment of present state boundaries, and who retain some or all of their social, economic, and political institutions (ILO). This term is somewhat problematic in the African context, where many countries define it exclusively against European colonialism and in reference to the majority Bantu population, rather than just for Khoesan populations like the San.

Indirect discrimination
An apparently neutral practice or criterion, which nonetheless places a group at social disadvantage based on group characteristics.


Groups with unequal power compared with the dominant majority and which may need protection from that majority (Minority Rights Group International). Minorities are defined by number (smaller than the majority population), non-dominance, and differences in ethnicity, culture, religion, or language.

“[A] group numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a state, in a non-dominant position, where members-being national of the state-possess ethnic, religious, linguistic characteristics differing from those of the rest of the population and show, if only implicitly, a sense of solidarity, directed towards preserving their culture, tradition, religion or language.”

Minority rights
A rights-based approach stressing the importance of cultural preservation as a means of improving the condition of minority groups. This embodies two separate concepts: first, normal individual rights as applied to members of racial, ethnic, class, religious, linguistic, or sexual minorities, and second, collective rights accorded to minority groups.1


Determination of belonging to a minority group made by the individuals themselves.

Social determinants of health
The broad range of factors that contribute to a person’s health including nutrition, housing, education, availability of social services, income, etc.

Social exclusion
The prevention of people from participating fully in economic, social, and civil life and/or when their access to income and other resources (personal, family, social, and cultural) is so inadequate as to exclude them from enjoying a standard of living and quality of life regarded acceptable by the society in which they live.

Social integration
Policies which seek to integrate a minority without coercion into the majority society, while ensuring the protection of individual rights.

1. Capotorti F, Study on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, U.N. Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/384/Rev.1, U.N. Sales No. E.78.XIV.1 (1979): 96.