Home > Publications . Search All . Browse All . Country . Browse PSC Pubs . PSC Report Series

PSC In The News

RSS Feed icon

Singh discusses her research in India on infertility

Johnston concerned declines in teen smoking threatened by e-cigarettes

Frey discusses book Diversity Explosion

Highlights

Apply for 2-year NICHD Postdoctoral Fellowships that begin September 2015

PSC Fall 2014 Newsletter now available

Martha Bailey and Nicolas Duquette win Cole Prize for article on War on Poverty

Michigan's graduate sociology program tied for 4th with Stanford in USN&WR rankings

Next Brown Bag

Monday, Jan 12
Filiz Garip, Changing Dynamics of Mexico-U.S. Migration

Sarah Burgard photo

Challenges of health measurement in studies of health disparities

Publication Abstract

Burgard, Sarah, and Patricia V. Chen. 2014. "Challenges of health measurement in studies of health disparities." Social Science & Medicine, 106: 143-150.

Health disparities are increasingly studied in and across a growing array of societies. While novel contexts and comparisons are a promising development, this commentary highlights four challenges to finding appropriate and adequate health measures when making comparisons across groups within a society or across distinctive societies. These challenges affect the accuracy with which we characterize the degree of inequality, limiting possibilities for effectively targeting resources to improve health and reduce disparities. First, comparisons may be challenged by different distributions of disease and second, by variation in the availability and quality of vital events and census data often used to measure health. Third, the comparability of self-reported information about specific health conditions may vary across social groups or societies because of diagnosis bias or diagnosis avoidance. Fourth, self-reported overall health measures or measures of specific symptoms may not be comparable across groups if they use different reference groups or interpret questions or concepts differently. We explain specific issues that make up each type of challenge and show how they may lead to underestimates or inflation of estimated health disparities. We also discuss approaches that have been used to address them in prior research, note where further innovation is needed to solve lingering problems, and make recommendations for improving future research. Many of our examples are drawn from South Africa or the United States, societies characterized by substantial socioeconomic inequality across ethnic groups and wide disparities in many health outcomes, but the issues explored throughout apply to a wide variety of contexts and inquiries.

DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.01.045 (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC4077714. (Pub Med Central)

Browse | Search : All Pubs | Next