Climate, COVID, Abortion: the month in health equity

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Cutting-edge health equity research doesn’t just happen in scientific journals. There’s a vibrant community of practitioners, advocates, and community members with lived experience working towards better health and wellbeing for all.

For this month’s health equity recap, we looked beyond the journals to pull in Twitter and the mainstream news. Let’s break these sources down one by one and then see if we can get a cohesive message.


There have been lots of publications recently on health equity: 453 articles across 204 distinct journals. To compile this list, we first pulled everything from the International Journal for Equity in Health, The Journal of Equity in Health, Health Equity, Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice, Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, Cancer Health Disparities, and Diversity and Equality in Health and Care. We then searched for any other mention of health equity and added those articles to the data set

These figures show the most frequent words and word strings across the abstracts. As usual, the network plot is more informative because it shows how certain words hang together.


The clustering of these 453 articles is also pretty interesting. We see the highest number of articles on service delivery, which potentially suggests a focus on not just the outcomes of public health work, but the process of public health work.

Selected Articles

We also pulled two sets of articles for you to download and add to your reading lists (if you have time for such things). This first spreadsheet is all the review articles from the past month. It’s in .xlsx format because a few people mentioned that the .pdfs were unwieldy.

This second spreadsheet is the articles that are most representative of each topic. For example, if you wanted to read the article that was the best example of the 22 articles on athlete, behavior, black, covid, and white, this table shows you what to pick. We also generate topic summaries for each word cluster, which are a little clunky, but we’re working on it.


Moving on to Twitter, we pulled all tweets with the hashtag #healthequity. While COVID-19 still dominates the discussions, we can also see that climate change is a prominent trend. As for our top tweeters, hats off to UNC’s Center for Health Equity Research, AHRQ news, and Dr. Melissa Sweet down under at Croakey.

Tweet Topics

The climate change and COVID trends are confirmed by looking at the topic clustering, which coincidentally had the exact same number of tweets. Pretty cool. But looking one row above, we see another topic on research and improving service gaps. This aligns well with the recently published academic research.

The (not fake) News

Finally, we looked at the mainstream press, defined as being indexed by Google News. There are likely better ways to pull from more specialized sites, but for the time being let’s stay straightforward. For this search, we used the terms “health equity” and “health disparities.” This double-pronged search yielded 48 articles published in the past month (or last 31 days)

The most frequent publisher was the old gray lady, The New York Times, with three articles. Below is a trend plot showing the number of articles published by day in the past month. The frequency was really light until a spike in the last week of August prior to Labor Day.

With so few articles, the trends are going to be a bit harder to come by, but we can see in the word cloud and network plot that the recent Texas abortion Law comes up a lot (along with some stranger terms).


There’s one source I really wanted to include but couldn’t find the right data set. Reddit is an online community where all sorts of subcommunities can thrive. I wrote about the SuicideWatch subreddit in a previous post. However, I couldn’t really find the right health and equity community. While there is a health equity subreddit, it’s been inactive for a few years. The Public Health Subreddit is okay, but it’s a little too general to be helpful for this topic.

I did a blanket search for any subreddits that contain the terms “health equity.” There has been NOTHING since September 2020, and that was in a subreddit dedicated to Nurse Practitioners and Physicians’ Assistants

This is all to say that we’re on the hunt for other sources to bring into this recap.

Putting it all together!

This was an interesting exercise. First and foremost, we know that there is a terrible lag between when an article is submitted and when it is actually published. It’s always going to be a challenge to get dynamic, reactive research out there.

Because of that, the other sources I went through here are likely closer to the “pulse” of the current discourse around equity. We get into an interesting cycle here. Does the science drive the discourse, or does the discourse drive the science? Like most things, the answer is annoyingly, “both.” That said, practitioners and researchers can do better paying attention to multiple sources because that may provide a much richer sense of the state of the health equity field.

In case you missed it.

It’s suicide prevention week. We wrote extensively about the online chatter in suicide and what the discourse is saying.

And PubTrawlr!

We’re launching our 101 Days of Science soon…hopefully within the next two weeks. Every three months or so, get a curated analysis of key topics and trends in all sorts of fields. We’ll be launching with community psychology, implementation science, health equity, and endometriosis, so stay tuned.

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