Syndemics and Health Disparities: A Methodological Note
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- Tsai, A.C. & Venkataramani, A.S. AIDS Behav (2016) 20: 423. doi:10.1007/s10461-015-1260-2
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In the theory of syndemics, diseases are hypothesized to co-occur in particular temporal or geographical contexts due to harmful social conditions (disease concentration) and to interact at the level of populations and individuals, with mutually enhancing deleterious consequences for HIV risk (disease interaction). Since its original elaboration more than 20 years ago, the epidemiological literature on syndemic problems has followed a questionable trajectory, stemming from the use of a specific type of regression model specification that conveys very little information about the theory of syndemics. In this essay we critically review the dominant approaches to modeling in the literature on syndemics; highlight the stringent assumptions implicit in these models; and describe some meaningful public health implications of the resulting analytical ambiguities. We conclude with specific recommendations for empirical work in this area moving forward.