The article, The Impact of Overcrowding on Health and Education, presents evidence on a research commissioned by the office of the deputy prime minister in London in 2003. The review of the literature was done by the Health Policy Research Unit and the Center for Comparative Housing Research. The article provides comprehensive information on the effect overcrowding has on the health and education of children. However, since it is not a primary research, the article dwells on reviewing literature from other studies on the same subject. Where the data and literature was scarce, the article also reviewed other reviews by other scholars. I chose this article because it delves on pertinent matters that affect our daily lives. Overcrowding is a problem facing many economies. Apart from the many slums creeping up in areas of poor social economic settings, more individuals than required are living in residential houses thereby posing health challenges. This article attempts to evaluate the impact that overcrowding has on health and education, hence my interest.
Definition of terms
Research is defined as the controlled harnessing of curiosity. It is also the formal work that is undertaken in a systematic way in order to increase one’s stock of knowledge. In this article, the researchers were curious as to what effects overcrowding has on the health and education of children. On the other hand, as per the definition of the World Health Organization, overcrowding is a situation where more people reside within a dwelling space than there is enough space for (Blas & Sivasankara, 2010, Pp.116) Consequently, there is restricted movement, secluded privacy, impossible to keep hygiene, and difficult sleep and rest. Overcrowding has effects on the quality of life of children due to sharing beds and bedrooms, lack of sleep, increased physical contact, lack of privacy and poor hygiene practices. Of note is the fact that different definitions are adopted for administrative and statistical reporting of crowding. This is done in terms of density as an objective representation of the number of individuals living in a defined unit area. Throughout this paper, I will critically appraise different aspects of the research whose findings are presented in the article. The critique will follow a framework suggested by (Caldwell, Henshaw & Taylor, 2005, pp. 45-54).
Credibility of the authors
The article is authored by two institutions commissioned by the office of the deputy prime minister. These two institutions are the Health Policy Research Unit and the Center for Comparative Housing Research. The Health Policy Research Unit is a commissioned department in London charged with the task of providing evidence to the Department of Health in order to inform the development of policies on commissioning. The unit is a center of excellence in research in London. The unit offers a national resource by holding research and evidence on commissioning. The unit conglomerates academics experts in research in the field of health services, commissioning and organizations.
The unit also develops research programmes of high quality that policy-makers and commissioners in healthcare. On the other hand, the Center for Comparative Housing Research brings together experts and a unique team that is experienced in high level consultancy, teaching and research in the field of public policy and housing. The unit offers courses in Leicester Business School on sustainable communities and housing. Evidently, the two authoring organizations have mandate are therefore credible (Health Policy Research Unit and the Center for Comparative Housing Research, 2004, pp.1-45).
In a research paper, an abstract offers the readers a preview of the thesis, proceedings, reviews, methodologies used, the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the research article. More precisely, an abstract offers a summary of the major sections of the research paper. This research article does not have an abstract. The article opens into the introduction and a summary of the findings. This is a major weakness of the research article. Although the authors have presented a summary of the findings immediately after the introduction, this preempts the use of an abstract.
Rationale for the study
The article has also not provided a rationale for undertaking the study. While this is supposed to feature prominently in the background information, it does not. However, from the short background information given, a keen reader can put one and two together. Nonetheless, it is difficult to pinpoint the rationale and also to misread the intentions of the authors of the articles due to different interpretations of what the rationale could be.
This article was primarily a review of literature on the impact of overcrowding on the education and health of children. As such, the authors have reviewed a wide array of literature from different sources and authors. The literature review is presented in form of chapters dealing with distinct areas of the general topic. This is one of the strengths of the approach used by the authors. By subdividing the general topic into chapters carrying distinct information, the authors comprehensively and adequately cover the entire subject. This approach also gives the reader an easy time in comprehending the gist of the literature review. This is because certain information is featured in an easily identifiable chapter. The fact that the chapters also carry distinct information gives the reader an easy time because of uniformity of arguments and subject.
The study identified over forty researches for review on the subject of overcrowding and the impact is has on health and education of adults and children. Another strength of the article features in the type of research articles that were sourced by the authors. The literature review in the article feature findings and conclusions from both qualitative and quantitative studies on the subject. The multiplicity of approaches in the studies sourced for review avoids the bias that a single approach may present. This factor also gives findings from the use of various approaches in studying the impact of overcrowding on education and health of children and adults. This allows the readers to compare the findings when either of the approaches is used.
However, most of the researches used in the review of literature are from quantitative studies. In addition, most of these studies were based on illnesses that were diagnosed in health facilities rather than on illnesses from self-reporting patients. This narrows the scope of the article in that it does not feature evidence on individual perceptions of the impact overcrowding has on one’s health and education. As a result of this, the ability of the results to be generalized on a larger population is very limited. Moreover, the study does not illuminate on whether people perceive overcrowding as a hazard to their health. This information would be important because it would recommend other intervention that ought to be carried out. For instance, public education drives could be instituted where a larger percentage of the population is ignorant of the hazard that overcrowding poses to one’s health.
The article does not feature evidence from experimental studies that link interventions aimed at reducing overcrowding to an improvement in health. Instead, the article features longitudinal studies that follow the socio-economic experiences and health of a group that was randomly selected. While such studies offer information over a long period of time, it is not easy to attribute an outcome to an intervention; something an experimental study would afford the article. However, the article has featured a considerably varied discussion of the effect overcrowding has on a number of illnesses. The discussions are tempered by findings from different studies. This offers the assertions in the discussions credibility from the collaboration of other studies.
Validity of the information given
Going by the information given, there are deficiencies in knowledge. For instance, different authors assume different definitions for overcrowding. Hence, there is a considerable variance in the measurement of the degree of overcrowding. In many words, different authors use different mechanisms and parameters to determine the degree of overcrowding. This brings about different thresholds for the determination of overcrowding. This makes it difficult for the author of the article to deduce conclusions from the review of literature.
The validity of the information presented is also affected by the effect of the variety in terms of type and quality of evidence that was used in the studies reviewed by the authors. To a greater extent, it can be said that the errors committed by the researchers in the reviewed studies were transferred unknowingly in this article. This is because the errors were carried forward in form of the data collected. The validity of the information provided is also affected by the deprivation of interrelated variables. This is because the variables analyzed in the article are the ones initially studied in the reviewed studies.
Research approach and methodology
As espoused earlier, the article is not a primary research but a review of literature. The approach used by the authors was the review of evidence presented by other studies. The study focused on measurable and objective impacts of overcrowding presented in primary research studies. Among the sources used in the identification of the articles for review included policy-related and academic databases, internet search engines and websites belonging to key research institutes. In anticipation to the different definitions of overcrowding, the authors performed a scoping prior to the selection of the articles. This offered a general idea of the various definitions adopted by various authors. This gives the article a sense of inclusivity in that it considered various definitions by different authors. In the identification of the articles, the authors used key words developed from the scoping study in search engines.
As another strategy, the authors adopted the snowballing technique. This is where they obtained some of the articles from the bibliographies of books and references of the already identified articles. This is a good strategy as it gives the authors a wide variety of articles to choose from. In order to increase the variety, the authors also performed a citation search of key articles. Over 250 papers were selected using the snowballing methodology and over 800 using the citation analysis. From this large number of papers, the authors used an extraction form to narrow down to 150 papers and finally to 80 papers that were used in the final review. This tasking methodology enabled the authors widen their scope in terms of paper selection. This also helped give the study a variety of findings and approaches.
Data extraction and analysis
One of strengths of the article is the diverse sourcing of the articles for review. The adoption of the snowballing technique in the identification of articles offers a wide reach. The advantage of this is that it offers the reader a wider perspective of the issues under scrutiny. The use of both qualitative and quantitative articles gives the article a varied approach. Qualitative and quantitative approaches in study focus on different aspects of the same subject. This offers a rich knowledge on the subject matter. It is no wonder the different chapters are richly tempered with information on the relationship between overcrowding and various ailments. The presentation of the literature reviewed in the article is also of very high ideals. The presentation is subdivided into relevant topics. The result is a meticulous organization of information making it easy for the reader to follow through. It is also easy for the reader to make inferences and conclusions as the information is presented in a way that features the effect of overcrowding on different ailments in children and adults.
The major weaknesses of the article is the absence of the abstract and the lack of experimental evidence that links various interventions aimed at reducing overcrowding to improvements in health outcomes. The paper is also lacking in ways that the information gotten cannot be generalized to a larger population.
Despite the numerous loopholes, I conclude that the article is a good source of knowledge and information. The paper articulates the various factors that affect the health and education of children and adults. Although overcrowding is the major factor, the article shows how it interrelates with other factors. The paper is backed by primary research. Though most of it is not experimental, the variety in the approaches used to generate ad analyze the data gives it both validity and credibility. The only thing the authors could have done to spruce up the paper was to locate experimental studies on the subject.
Blas, E., & Sivasankara Kurup, A. 2010. Equity, social determinants and public health programmes. Geneva, World Health Organization.
Caldwell, K. Henshaw, L, & Taylor, G. 2005 Developing a framework for critiquing health research. Journal of Health, Social and Environmental Issues. Vol 6, No1, 45-54.
Health Policy Research Unit and the Center for Comparative Housing Research, 2004. The impact of overcrowding on health and Education - A review of Evidence and Literature by Available at http://www.odpm.gov.uk