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Measuring socio-economic status: Can we make it less complicated in order to increase routine use?

Abstract

The measurement of socio-economic status, or wealth, is done in a variety of ways including assessing income, expenditure, assets and education, or some combination therein.  Wealth is measured in relative terms, such as that which is used for a Lorenz curve, and in absolute terms, required to place individuals and households at various poverty lines. In low- and middle-income countries, assessing socio-economic status takes on additional importance due to the difficulty of accurately assessing income. Its necessity has been made clear through numerous studies describing inequities in health status, education, access to services, etc.

In response to the observed inequities, donors, governments and non-profits have prioritized serving ‘the poor’. Several national level tools exist, including Equist, HEAT, and StatCompiler. Yet, easily determining whether or not the poor are receiving needed services, benefiting from offered programs, or being appropriately targeted remains a challenge.

This seminar will explore a tool to quickly assess the relative wealth of a surveyed group.  The EquityTool is a free, simple, easy-to-use survey that is available for over 45 low and middle income countries, and is benchmarked to national household surveys.  Surveys are reliable and valid, yet up to 60% shorter than DHS asset based measures of wealth. An overview of the methodology will be shared, limitations acknowledged and considerations for use offered. We will also have an opportunity to test the EquityTool, and compare its application to a more traditional assessment of socio-economic status. Finally, two case studies of current application will demonstrate how it can be implemented in order to improve health service provision.

About the speaker: Dr. Nirali Chakraborty is the Director of Research and Technical Assistance for Metrics for Management. M4M is an organization that designs, promotes, and standardizes performance measures in health service delivery to improve health outcomes and wellbeing in low- and middle- income countries. Dr. Chakraborty’s current work focuses on the development of simple, standard measures to assess family planning and abortion services quality. She formerly oversaw the quality and dissemination of Population Services International’s reproductive health related research internationally. Nirali has conducted research in, and published articles on, social franchising, health equity, health workforce performance, reproductive health and maternal health. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Global Health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.  Nirali received her PhD in International Health, with a concentration in Health Systems, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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