Addressing the Challenges of Research With Small Populations

Am J Public Health. 2015 Sep;105(9):1744-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302783. Epub 2015 Jul 16.


Public health policy relies on accurate data, which are often unavailable for small populations, especially indigenous groups. Yet these groups have some of the worst health disparities in the United States, making it an ethical imperative to explore creative solutions to the problem of insufficient data. We discuss the limits of widely applied methods of data aggregation and propose a mixed-methods approach to data borrowing as a way to augment sample sizes. In this approach, community partners assist in selecting related populations that make suitable "neighbors" to enlarge the data pool. The result will be data that are substantial, accurate, and relevant to the needs of small populations, especially for health-related policy and decision-making at all levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Public Health Surveillance / methods*
  • Racial Groups
  • Research Design*
  • Sample Size
  • United States