Measuring respiratory health in longitudinal studies

The journal Biodemography and Social Biology has just published a special issue devoted to the use of biomeasures in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), and more generally, to their value and role in longitudinal social science.

The articles focus on a variety markers (from cardiovascular to metabolic) and includes a handful of thorough reviews of the integration of these measures in panel studies in general. One article, by Edith Chen and Wei-Jun Jean Yeung, summarizes the measurement of respiratory health in longitudinal social science surveys.

It’s a detailed and useful review of pulmonary function measurements and a helpful synthesis of the important perspective – and research synergies – that such measurements add to social science surveys. The authors also summarize some of the measurement issues and the limitations that equipment cost and training pose to the widespread adoption of spirometry.

This group of articles got me thinking about the lack of longitudinal health social science surveys in global health – particularly ones conceived and fielded by local investigators and institutions. I’m sure there must be some and I’d love to learn about them if they exist. It seems to me that affordable spirometry equipment with in-built technology to assure high quality measurements is really a priority if we’re to see valuable panel data collected from low and middle-income settings anytime soon.

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