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The concept of Inequality

on Fri, 03/08/2013 - 04:58
I'm attending the workshop "Measurement and monitoring of inequalities in health" that is taking place in the headquarter of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Americas on March 7-8. The workshop is conducted by Dr. Sam Harper, Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
 
The workshops started introducing and defining the concepts of inequalities and inequities. Both, inequality and inequity are related concepts but different. Inequalities are simply observed differences among societies or groups of population, meanwhile inequities are unfair and avoidable inequalities. Both concepts, in the context of health, are crucial in defining interventions and public health policies. The analysis of inequities must ultimately seek to determine their causes and how likely they are to be unfair and avoidable, and propose potential interventions to improve health outcomes narrowing their disparities.
 
While refreshing these concepts, it comes to mind a video called Inequality in America which started going viral on Friday and whose traffic continues to climb in YouTube.
 
The video shows the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting the difference among ideal distribution of wealth, our perception of inequality and the actual inequality. I wanted to include it here because it illustrates clearly the concept of inequalities and explains concepts such as deciles, quintiles and gradient of social groups in a way that is very easy to understand.
 
 
This is great example of Storytelling with data, a next logical step for visualization, as proposed by Robert Kosara and Jock Mackinlay in the article "Storytelling: The Next Step for Visualization" which will be published at Computer (Special Issue on Cutting-Edge Research in Visualization) on May 2013
 
Presentation and communication of data have so far played a minor role in visualization research, with most work focused on exploration and analysis. We propose that presentation, in particular using elements from storytelling, is the next logical step and should be a research focus of at least equal importance as each of the other two. Stories package information into a structure that is easily remembered, which is important in many collaborative scenarios when an analyst is not the same person as the one who makes decisions, or simply needs to share information with peers. Data visualization lends itself well to being a communication medium for storytelling, in particular when the story also contains a lot of data.
 
Coming back to the workshop, Sam Harper and John Lynch developed an interactive version of this course, called Measuring Health Disparities, which was produced by the Michigan Public Health Training Center (MPHTC), University of Michigan available for free here
 
Attending this workshop I expect not only refreshing my knowledge about the concepts, measurements and methods of health inequalities but developing skills in measuring, monitoring and analyzing inequalities on health. I hope to apply what I learned in future articles.
 
Best,
 
Ramon

Comments

Frank Levy's picture

I thought I really understood the depth of the disparities in wealth between the rich, middle class and poor in this country until I watched this video. I am speechless. And even though I work fo a non-profit dedicated to reducing the disparities in access to healthcare, education and jobs, I can ony ask, "can this ever be made to be truly equitable?"