CP TIG Week: Susan Wolfe on Presenting Data on Health Disparities

My name is Susan Wolfe and I am the owner of Susan Wolfe and Associates, LLC, a consulting firm that applies Community Psychology principles to strengthening organizations and communities.  Most of the evaluation work I do is with federally funded Healthy Start programs that are working to reduce disparities in infant mortality rates.

According to the Office of Minority Health, African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate and are 3 times as likely to die as infants due to low birth weight related complications when compared with non-Hispanic whites.

Now, be honest – what is your first reaction to this information?  What would be your first recommendations for intervention? Education? Interventions with the pregnant women?  Would you be surprised to learn that studies have ruled out genetics, behavior, and economics as explanatory factors for these disparities?  Would be you more surprised to learn that there is increasing evidence that the stress of racism may be a contributing factor? Whenever someone shows disparities between groups, it may immediately be interpreted that there is something that group is doing differently, which will automatically lead to an individual-focused solution to what might be a systemic problem.

Hot Tip: When you present statistics showing disparities between two groups, think about how they may be interpreted and used. If additional explanatory information is available, present it with the disparities data. Don’t just present the data alone, but present accompanying data about possible explanations for the disparities at multiple levels. Present both evidence that shows what does contribute to the disparities, and also evidence dispelling possible contributors.

Hot Tip: Use ecological models to promote thinking about potential contributors to disparities from a systems viewpoint and guide your audience to think about the issue at multiple levels.

Rad Resource:  The Social Determinants of Health Model, Life Course Theory, and other ecological models are useful tools to introduce when presenting health disparities data to illustrate the potential multiple levels of contributions to the problem and potential interventions.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site has wonderful resources at this site.

The American Evaluation Association is celebratingCP TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group. The contributions all week come from CP TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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