This research issue also has a prospective dimension. As policy options and interventions are developed to deal with current major issues in public health, research is needed of the ways in which these policies and interventions may affect racial and ethnic groups differently. The epidemic of obesity, for instance, is commanding increasing public and professional attention. Researchers need to attend to the mechanisms of influence of legal interventions and the ways they may have differential effects (Emmons, 2001; Gostin, 2001; Warner, 2001). For instance, one possible reason for the limited progress that has been made to combat obesity, particularly among the disadvantaged, may have to do with the price structure for various foods. If a premium must be paid for lean meats, reduced fat, and low-calorie foods, availability and consumption of these will be more limited at lower socioeconomic levels, with possible differential effects across racial and ethnic groups. When combined with cultural food patterns, the wide availability of high-starch and high-fat food stuffs, lack of leisure time opportunities, limited leisure time outlets, and the cheap, sedentary entertainment of television, public policies to affect health behaviors face difficult barriers (Warner, 2001).
One option, requiring special research attention, is supplementing universal health intervention policies with policies targeted at specific groups (Syme, 2002). Universal health policies (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid) are reported to have improved the health of blacks and other disproportionately low-income groups (Meyers and Darity, 2000). Whether some targeting of interventions would be useful to reduce group health disadvantages is worth investigation (Hudson, 2002; Syme, 2002).