241058 Disability Prevalence:An examination of measurement purpose and process

Monday, October 31, 2011: 10:30 AM

Barbara M. Altman, PhD , Disability Statistics Consultant, Rockville, MD
The purpose of this paper is to help clarify how our understanding of disability prevalence is influenced by disciplinary definition, theoretical models, measurement purpose and process and the data used. Although the simplicity of a single solution to these problems is appealing, the reality of the multiple policy perspectives and multiple disciplinary approaches that create disability definitions and measurements make such a solution unlikely. Rather, the answer lies not in creating another new “precise” definition or measure of disability, but in understanding how the multiple domains of disability relate to each other in the whole construct and the limited representation of any one measure. The medical, functional, and social models are not so much conflicting approaches to studying disability (although they have been portrayed as such for quite some time), but constructs which highlight different aspects of a complicated phenomena. They are not competing elements but rather areas of focus with diverse research applications. Within appropriate specific contexts they address many of the major questions or problems that occur. In the more general context, what is lacking is the understanding by a multidisciplinary audience of the translation of model components to measurement, the application of measures to research questions and the relationship among the variety of measures. This paper reviews definition, unit of analysis and purpose of research and translation of concept to measure in order to develop a more integrated approach to diverse disciplinary findings.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related research
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Articulate the relationship among commonly used measures of disability. Explain why prevalence estimates of disability differ among data sets and research analyses. Assess the most commonly used measure of disability within their disciplinary specialty. Evaluate the appropriateness of measures available in the data for the purpose of their analysis.

Keywords: Disability Policy, Methodology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a PhD in sociology with 30 years experience both in the classroomand and with government health statistics agencies
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.