To Count or Not to Count? A Vexing Public Health Conceptual Quagmire
Presentation and Panel discussion: Conceptualizing, Defining, and Measuring Disability. American Public Health Association 138th Annual Meeting and Expo, Denver, CO.
Epidemiological surveillance, or counting and analyzing the magnitude and causal factors of a population’s health status and intervention needs, has been a major epistemic and ontological foundation of public health. Within the past several decades, disability and its subsets increasingly have been the object of surveillance. While this trend is well intended to resolve health disparities experienced by population segments who have previously been omitted from public health attention, surveillance has raised definitional, conceptual, philosophical and ethical quagmires that have yet to be fully analyzed and negotiated. In this presentation, the presenters identified the conceptual quagmires that emerge from surveillance of disability in pubic health, analyzed their epistemic and philosophical tensions and then proposed a synthetic theoretical approach for use in public health surveillance, which builds on contemporary intellectual and methodological pluralism.