Melanie Wall, Columbia University

Incorporating intersectionality using latent class analysis within health contexts

Spotlight Speaker

Intersectionality posits that social categories (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation) and the forms of social stratification that maintain them (e.g. racism, sexism, homophobia) are interlocking, not discrete. An intersectionality framework considers harms and oppression and also privileges and unearned advantages. By focusing on intersectionality, we can examine axes of social power that underlie our overall health and the systems that support it with the goal of identifying levers for change. A recent systematic review (Bauer et al 2022 Social Psychiatry and Psych Epi) demonstrated a growing use of latent variable methods including latent class analysis for applications of intersectionality. Latent class analysis (LCA) has been described as a “person-centered” approach as it clusters within-individual characteristics seen to be appropriate to intersectionality. In the present talk, I will demonstrate the use of LCA for combining intersecting social positions with multiple factors characterizing an initial mental health encounter. The example comes from a study of ethnoracial disparities in coordinated specialty care for people with psychosis. Clusters were identified based on the first-contact experience (i.e., referral source, type of first mental health service contact, symptoms at referral) in combination with sociodemographic variables impacting an individual’s social position (age, gender, ethnoracial group, language proficiency, sexual orientation, living situation, type of insurance, homelessness, and urbanicity). Visualizations of intersectional cluster results and comparisons between the LCA approach and analyses focused on each variable separately will be presented.

About the speaker

Melanie M. Wall, PhD, is the director of Mental Health Data Science in the psychiatry department of the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI)/Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), where she oversees a team of biostatisticians collaborating on predominately National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research projects related to psychiatry. She is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and the statistical editor for the journal Psychiatric Services.  She has worked extensively with modeling complex multilevel and multimodal data on a wide array of psychosocial public health and psychiatric research questions in both clinical studies and large epidemiologic studies.

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