In April 1989 the Committee on National Statistics convened a workshop to evaluate disability statistics in the United States and the feasibility of a study to improve the collection and dissemination of disability statistics (Levine, Zitter, and Ingram, 1990). Participants recommended that the committee convene a panel of experts to consider, for different age groups, disability concepts, definitions, trends, indicators, and other related issues. Prior to launching a full-scale study, the committee planned to hold case study workshops or conferences, at the request of sponsoring agencies, to focus on specific issues.
The National Institute on Aging provided support for a workshop to review the data and methods used to determine trends in disability at older ages. Of particular interest were recent findings from the National Long Term Care Survey that showed a decline in the prevalence of disability among older age groups. Whether these findings are consistent with recent results from other surveys of old-age disability was also of interest. In addition, comparison of trends in the United States with those of other countries has recently become possible due to an effort supported by the United Nations.
In October 1993, the Committee on National Statistics convened a workshop of relevant experts to explore findings from the National Long Term Care Survey and to compare them with preliminary findings from the National Health Interview Survey and the Longitudinal Study on Aging. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together scientists to present and discuss observed trends in disability, their measurement, possible explanations, and the implications of forecasting disability trends for policy issues and for future data collection.
A number of people contributed time and expertise to the production of the workshop. Miron Straf and Anu Pemmarazu organized the workshop. Beth Soldo of Georgetown University served as chair. This report was prepared by Vicki Freedman, now with the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, and Beth Soldo. The report also benefited from the thoughtful comments of reviewers and the editorial assistance of Christine McShane and Eugenia Grohman of the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.
Norman M. Bradburn, Chair
Committee on National Statistics