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Qualitative versus quantitative research.

I read with interest the October 2006 article by Teddi Dineley Johnson about the new APHA book that illuminates the benefits of qualitative research, "Improving Aging and Public Health Research: Qualitative and Mixed Methods." It was mentioned in the article that most social science research is done in a quantitative manner, often using large data sets and statistical measurements. the field of gerontology, however, qualitative research--using focus groups, interviews and observations--is useful the discovery and interpretation of cultural diversity and social disparities.

As a biologist, microbiologist and epidemiologist, received comprehensive training in quantitative methods and was essentially "programmed" to think in quantitative terms in regard to almost everything that has to do with science and public health. Yet, recently I attended the 12th Annual Midwest Qualitative Research Conference held at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minn. I audited several presentations on research in which primarily qualitative methods were used to study a variety of topics including those that deal with issues related to public health. I was amazed how powerful qualitative methods are and how useful they can be in research.

Based on this experience, I agree with the statement of Terrie Wetle, PhD, one of the book's co-authors, that "qualitative and mixed methods research strategies provide us with useful tools for developing a deeper understanding of (people's) beliefs, behaviors and health conditions." I believe we should include qualitative research methods in our science and public health education. This way, we would provide a more comprehensive training to future researchers.

Christian T.K.-H.

Stadtlander, PhD, MPH,


St. Paul, Minn.
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Title Annotation:LETTERS: Personal perspectives on public health
Author:T.K.-H., Christian
Publication:The Nation's Health
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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