“There’s Inequality in Death”: Analyzing Mortality Data to Level the Playing Field 

Assistant Professor Monica Alexander analyzes mortality and health data to better understand inequality in its various forms – from systemic poverty to the opioid crisis or natural disasters. 

Life is not a level playing field, but if you ask Monica Alexander, assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s department of statistical sciences, she will quickly point out that death isn’t either.

Marginalized populations are disproportionately vulnerable to conditions or events that can cause an early or unnatural death. By analyzing data on who dies, when and how, researchers like Alexander can learn a lot about how to improve or even save people’s lives.

For example, insights gained from data on child mortality can lead to more effective social policies. Likewise, recognizing patterns in the spread of a lethal epidemic might help contain future outbreaks.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy. Reliable information on issues that affect vulnerable populations is often sparse – and without the right tools, prying trustworthy knowledge from datasets riddled with holes can quickly turn into guesswork. Filling in those gaps by using the right tools is at the core of Alexander’s work. Her research focuses on developing statistical methods that produce reliable results, particularly when there is little data available.

Her passion for serving disadvantaged people has led her to contribute to research projects that have informed the work of organizations such as UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, and the Human Mortality Database.

Read the full story at U of T News

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