Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Silly studies with silly evaluation measures...

I am in the process of reviewing a proposal for a large scale project that frames itself in terms of addressing healthcare disparities. After giving us sermons about how disparities are bad, and so on and so forth, the proposal goes on to talk about some silly and outdated concept of "external locus of control" and makes the claim that addressing external locus of control would change behaviors. The behavior in question, my favorite, eating fruits and vegetables. So the evaluation measures of the project that is asking for a large sum of money to address health disparities is played out in getting the target community to eat more fruits and vegetables. Silly, silly, silly...and more importantly, one might suggest, wastage of tax payer dollars. Nowhere in the proposal does the researcher show awareness of the prices that the poor have to pay for securing fruits and vegetables, or of the fact that fruits and vegetables are typically out of the reach of the common person. Most importantly, after exhorting us to consider the problem with health inequalities, nowhere does the proposal show an awareness of the structural roots of these disparities. Instead, it blames underserved communities for not eating adequate servings of fruits and vegetables, and labels the communities with the tag of "external locus of control." It is about time that we train our social scientists to look at the big picture rather than think about social problems through the myopic lens (often of some individual behavior driven social psychology) that they have been trained in.

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