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Health Serv Res. 2011 Apr;46(2):397-420. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2010.01203.x. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

Separated at birth: statisticians, social scientists, and causality in health services research.

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  • 1Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.



Health services research is a field of study that brings together experts from a wide variety of academic disciplines. It also is a field that places a high priority on empirical analysis. Many of the questions posed by health services researchers involve the effects of treatments, patient and provider characteristics, and policy interventions on outcomes of interest. These are causal questions. Yet many health services researchers have been trained in disciplines that are reluctant to use the language of causality, and the approaches to causal questions are discipline specific, often with little overlap. How did this situation arise? This paper traces the roots of the division and some recent attempts to remedy the situation.


Existing literature.


Review of the literature.

© Health Research and Educational Trust.

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