Thursday, February 21, 2013

Searcher: Socio-economic model in quantitative practice

As we have during class discussion (as well as some discussion on the board) investigated and problematized the socio-economic model of analyzing health disparities, I thought it would be interesting to see how this model functions in contemporary medical journals. While admittedly, this is not a journal of evolutionary medicine nor one of biological anthropology, the implications of the models we have looked at in class stretch beyond the scope of these fields of study and have important repercussions on the way in which health disparities are addressed. Attached below is an article I found on the subject from The New England Journal of Medicine.

The study looked at data on mortality rates by country, evaluating this data by the parameters of sex, age, cause of death, and socio-cultural status. The data on death was subdivided into two categories – one common, such as cancer, as well as more specific reasons, such as cigarette smoking. Socio-economic status was measured by education, occupation, and income. And all parameters were adjusted for age.

Once I began to read this article, I began to have some problems with the way in which the research was conducted. While admittedly, I have little scientific and no medical education, let alone any real experience in setting up scientific studies, I do wish to critique the methods by which this study was conducted. Having now, nearly completed my degree socio-cultural anthropology, which focuses almost exclusively on qualitative studies, I have to question as to whether an index of socio-economic status can really be constructed with this kind of quantitative analysis, given that the study is being done over a large area/population and when it is being done in an ethnically/racially blind manner. While I do not mean to discredit this study and I do not wish to make overly pedantic and qualitatively biased critiques, I think that class is a more complicated structure than evaluating it simply upon the parameters of education, occupation, and income, and that, as we have seen in this week’s articles, issues such as race/ethnicity and other social conditions should be important in this sort of analysis.

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