A review of the inclusion of equity stratifiers for the measurement of health inequalities within health and social care data collections in Ireland

Christopher Carroll, Katie Evans, Khalifa Elmusharaf, Patrick O'Donnell, Anne Dee, Diarmuid O'Donovan, Marie Casey

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Health equity differs from the concept of health inequality by taking into consideration the fairness of an inequality. Inequities may be culturally specific, based on social relations within a society. Measuring these inequities often requires grouping individuals. These groupings can be termed equity stratifiers. The most common groupings affected by health inequalities are summarised by the acronym PROGRESS (Place of residence, Race, Occupation, Gender, Religion, Education, Socioeconomic status, Social capital). The aim of this review was to examine the use of equity stratifiers in routinely collected health and social care data collections in Ireland.

One hundred and twenty data collections were identified from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) document, “Catalogue of national health and social care data collections: Version 3.0”. Managers of all the data collections included were contacted and a data dictionary was requested where one was not available via the HIQA website. Each of the data dictionaries available was reviewed to identify the equity stratifiers recorded.

Eighty-three of the 120 data collections were considered eligible to be included for review. Twenty-nine data dictionaries were made available. There was neither a data dictionary available nor a response to our query from data collection managers for twenty-three (27.7%) of the data collections eligible for inclusion. Data dictionaries were from national data collections, regional data collections and national surveys. All data dictionaries contained at least one of the PROGRESS equity stratifiers. National surveys included more equity stratifiers compared with national and regional data collections. Definitions used for recording social groups for the stratifiers examined lacked consistency.

While there has been much discussion on tackling health inequalities in Ireland in recent years, health and social care data collections do not always record the social groupings that are most commonly affected. In order to address this, it is necessary to consider which equity stratifiers should be used for the Irish population and, subsequently, for agreed stratifiers to be incorporated into routine health data collection. These are lessons that can be shared internationally as other countries begin to address deficits in their use of equity stratifiers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1705
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sep 2021


  • Dimensions of inequality
  • Equity stratifiers
  • Ireland
  • Health inequalities


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