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In recent years, a growing body of research in positive epidemiology has sought to expand the traditional focus of epidemiologic research beyond risk factors for disease and towards a more holistic understanding of health that includes the study of positive assets that shape well-being more broadly. While this paradigm shift holds great promise for transforming people’s lives for the better, it is also critiqued for showcasing decontextualized perspectives that could cause great harm to the public’s health if translated uncritically into population-based interventions. In this commentary, we argue for orienting positive epidemiology within a human rights and economic justice framework to mitigate this threat and discuss two examples of previously proposed health assets (religious involvement and marriage) that demonstrate the urgent need for positive epidemiologic research to center health equity. Finally, to advance the field, we provide recommendations for how future research can address shortcomings of the extant literature by moving from individual-level applications to societal-level approaches. In doing so, we believe that positive epidemiology can be transformed into a powerful force for health equity.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in American Journal of Epidemiology in 2024 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at


Oxford University Press

Available for download on Tuesday, April 22, 2025