The Measurement of Capabilities and Public Health

Lorgelly, Paula, and Paul Anand (2009). "The Measurement of Capabilities and Public Health " Paper presented at the 6th annual conference of the HDCA, 10-12 September 2009, Lima, Peru.

In response to the lack of empirical research, Anand et al (2005) sought to measure capability by utilising data from the British Household Panel Survey. Upon finding incompleteness, they developed further indicators. The result is a set of more than 60 indicators, which reflect Nussbaum's list of ten capabilities. Anand et al found strong evidence of a link to wellbeing, but noted that further research was required, particularly in terms of tailoring samples to focus on specific issues. A subsequent project sought to reduce and refine this survey, so to provide a summary measure of wellbeing and capability in the realm of public health. The reduction and refinement of the questionnaire took place across a number of stages, using both qualitative (focus group discussions and in-depth interviews) and quantitative (secondary data analysis and primary data collection using postal surveys) approaches. The questionnaire was reduced from its original 65 questions to 24 questions (including demographic questions). Each of Nussbaum's ten Central Human Capabilities are measured using one (or more) of the 18 specific capability items which are included in the questionnaire. Analysis of the questionnaire responses found that respondents had a range of capabilities, and that these capabilities appear to be sensitive to one's gender, age, income and deprivation decile. An index of capability, estimated by assuming equal weight for each capability question, found that the average level of capability amongst respondents was 12.44 (range 3-17.75). This index was found to be highly correlated with a measure of health (EQ5D) and wellbeing (global QoL), although some differences were apparent; implying that the questionnaire has the potential to be a valid measure of outcome for public health interventions.
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