Prestige rankings of chronic diseases and disabilities. A survey among professionals in the disability field
Abstract: Disabled people constitute the world's largest minority; too little is known about the internal structure and valuations of that minority. We investigate whether prestige rankings of different chronic diseases and disabilities can be elicited from a community of disability non-governmental organizations (NGOs). A survey was performed in a sample of NGO professionals in Norway in late 2013 and early 2014. Two copies of a questionnaire was sent to 92 national and regional offices of disability NGOs requesting a response from either senior employees or elected officials, preferably one of each. Outcome measures were ratings on a 1–9 scale of the prestige these respondents believed most professionals in their field would accord to a sample of 38 different conditions. We find that there is a prestige hierarchy of chronic diseases and disabilities in the disability field. In this hierarchy, somatic conditions that are strongly associated with medical treatment were placed higher than either conditions that are characterized by permanence, or conditions are associated with psychosomatic etiologies. The elicited prestige hierarchy is at odds with prevalent normative positions in the disability field; there is a lack of fit between some of the field's central political goals and its internal evaluations. We propose that its structure can be explained through a) influence from the medical field, b) organization history, size, and prominence, and c) issues of credibility, shame and blame. Further research should be conducted into the structure and valuations of the disability field in general and people with disabilities and chronic diseases in particular.