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Section 22. Using Small Area Analysis to Uncover Disparities

What do we mean by small area analysis?

__ Small area analysis is an assessment procedure that focuses on small specific geographic areas or populations in order to point up disparities or differences among them and between them and a larger statistical pattern.

__ It is usually important to involve the community in conducting small area analysis.

Why conduct small area analysis?

__ Small area analysis can identify disparities in health and services.

__ It can show you issues you wouldn’t otherwise see.

__ It helps you decide where to allocate resources.

__ Small area analysis clarifies what problems, issues, and assets exist where.

__ It can show what kind of effort is likely to be most effective in a particular place or with a particular population.

__ Small area analysis can help to identify causes or contributing factors to a condition.

When should you conduct small area analysis?

__ When small areas are what you’re responsible for.

__ When you have to allocate limited resources among a large number of areas.

__ When statistics don’t add up.

__ When you’re trying to pinpoint sources or causes of conditions.

Who should be involved in conducting small area analysis?

A short list of those who might conduct or contribute to small area analysis:

__ Citizens concerned with or affected by conditions that create disparities among groups in different areas or with different characteristics.

__ Public health agencies, officials, and coalitions.

__ Other public agencies that provide services (e.g., welfare, children’s services).

__ NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and community-based human service organizations.

__ Community activists.

__ Police and fire departments.

__ Hospitals, clinics, and health professionals.

__ Community developers.

__ Community and regional planners.

__ Municipal service departments, such as water, sewer, traffic, and public works.

__ Foresters, wildlife biologists, and others concerned with the natural environment and unbuilt areas.

How do you conduct small area analysis?

__ Encourage community participation.

__ Identify the outcomes you hope will result from small area analysis.

__ Define the small areas you’ll examine.

__ Choose the information you’ll look for, including:

  • Demographics
  • Environmental factors that might contribute to disparities
  • Social determinants related to disparities
  • Context

__ Decide where you’ll seek information.

  • The census
  • Organizational and institutional files
  • Municipal records
  • State and federal government agency files
  • Direct, hands-on information gathering

__ Determine how you’ll analyze the information.

  • Consider the timeliness of the information.
  • Consider the quality of the information.
  • Consider the geographic and demographic areas the information describes.
  • Ask yourself questions that will help to identify and explain differences among small areas and between them and the larger community or statistical area.
    • Are there disparities between small and larger areas?
    • Are there disparities among small areas?
    • Are there disparities within small areas?
    • Are there factors in the physical environment that might contribute to or explain differences?
    • Are there social, political, and/or economic factors (social determinants of health or SDOH) that might contribute to or explain differences?
    • Are there cultural differences among the residents of small areas that contribute to the differences?
    • Are there trends that show the issue increasing or decreasing in particular small areas or among particular population groups?
    • Are numbers dependent on when measurements were taken?
    • Do you know something the numbers don’t?

__ Evaluate your small area analysis effort.