Health inequality measurements are vital in understanding disease patterns to identify high-risk patients and implementing effective intervention programs in treating and managing sexually transmitted diseases. Our study seeks to measure and identify inequalities among chlamydia and gonorrhea rates using Gini coefficient measurements and spatial visualization mapping from geographical information systems. Additionally, we seek to examine trends of disease rate distribution longitudinally over a ten-year period for an urbanized county.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea data from January 2005 to December 2014 were collected from the Indiana Network for Patient Care, a health information exchange system that gathers patient data from electronic health records. The Gini coefficient was used to calculate the magnitude of inequality in disease rates. Spatial visualization mapping and decile categorization of disease rates were conducted to identify locations where high and low rates of disease persisted and to visualize differences in inequality. A multiple comparisons ANOVA test was conducted to determine if Gini coefficient values were statistically different between townships and time periods during the study.
Our analyses show that chlamydia and gonorrhea rates are not evenly distributed. Inequalities in disease rates existed for different areas of the county with higher disease rates occurring near the center of the county. Inequality in gonorrhea rates were higher than chlamydia rates. Disease rates were statistically different when geographical locations or townships were compared to each other (p < 0.0001) but not for different years or time periods (p = 0.5152).
The ability to use Gini coefficients combined with spatial visualization techniques presented a valuable opportunity to analyze information from health information systems in investigating health inequalities. Knowledge from this study can benefit and improve health quality, delivery of services, and intervention programs while managing healthcare costs.