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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

Identifying your own Perspectives
Each of us brings particular perspectives to our search for health statistics. This exercise asks you to begin by identifying your own perspectives and then to apply your answers to gain a greater understanding of how perspectives shape the way people use health statistics.

Ask yourself:
  • What kind of information am I looking for?
  • How am I going to use this information?
  • How did my education, training, experience and current job goals shape what I am looking for?
  • What are some of the key assumptions that I make when looking for useful data?
    • For example, how fast do I expect health indicators to change?
    • What correlates do I think will identify the forces that impact on health status, costs or outcomes?
    • Do I think that the factors I want to measure are in born [the results of genetic factors] or acquired?
    • Do I think that these factors are more common among defined population groups? Where do I believe these relationships originated?
  • Each of these questions illustrates a perspective that you bring to health statistics. Now consider:
    • How do the answers to these questions effect that standards that you apply to judge the meaning, validity and suitability of reported trends?
Advanced reading:
For a good exposition of these ideas see:

Stephen Jay Gould.  The mismeasure of man. New York : Norton, c1996.