Moving from Ethnography to Epidemiology

Lessons Learned in Appalachia

Published in: Annals of Human Biology, v. 36, no. 3, May 2009, 248-260

Posted on on January 01, 2009

by Ryan Andrew Brown, Jennifer Kuzara, William E. Copeland, E. Jane Costello, Adrian Angold, Carol M. Worthman

Read More

Access further information on this document at Annals of Human Biology

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

BACKGROUND: Anthropologists are beginning to translate insights from ethnography into tools for population studies that assess the role of culture in human behavior, biology, and health. AIM: The authors describe several lessons learned in the creation and administration of an ethnographically-based instrument to assess the life course perspectives of Appalachian youth, the Life Trajectory Interview for Youth (LTI-Y). Then, the authors explore the utility of the LTI-Y in predicting depressive symptoms, controlling for prior depressive symptoms and severe negative life events throughout the life course. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: In a sample of 319 youths (190 White, 129 Cherokee), the authors tested the association between depressive symptoms and two domains of the LTI-Y - life course barriers and milestones. Longitudinal data on prior depressive symptoms and negative life events were included in the model. RESULTS: The ethnographically-based scales of life course barriers and milestones were associated with unique variance in depressive symptoms, together accounting for 11% of the variance in this outcome. CONCLUSION: When creating ethnographically-based instruments, it is important to strike a balance between detailed, participant-driven procedures and the analytic needs of hypothesis testing. Ethnographically-based instruments have utility for predicting health outcomes in longitudinal studies.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.