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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

First, second, and third order bias corrections (also, my ugly R code for the mortality-rate graphs!)

As an applied statistician, I don’t do a lot of heavy math. I did prove a true theorem once (with the help of some collaborators), but that was nearly twenty years ago. Most of the time I walk along pretty familiar paths, just hoping that other people will do the mathematical work necessary for me […]

Inference from an intervention with many outcomes, not using “statistical significance”

Kate Casey writes: I have been reading your papers “Type S error rates for classical…” and “Why We (Usually) Don’t Have to Worry…” with great interest and would be grateful for your views on the appropriateness of a potentially related application. I have a non-hierarchical dataset of 28 individuals who participated in a randomized control […]

Taleb’s Precautionary Principle: Should we be scared of GMOs?

Skyler Johnson writes: I was wondering if you could (or had already) weigh(ed) in on Nassim Taleb’s Precautionary Principle as it applies to GMOs? I’ve attached his working paper with Rupert Read, Raphael Douady, Joseph Norman and,Yaneer Bar-Yam. It can also be found at his site, See also his response to a critique from […]

What happened to mortality among 45-54-year-old white non-Hispanics? It declined from 1989 to 1999, increased from 1999 to 2005, and held steady after that.

The raw death rates for the group (which appeared in the Case-Deaton paper) are in red, and the age-adjusted death rates (weighting each year of age equally) are in black. So . . . the age-adjusted mortality in this group increased by 5% from 1999 to 2005 and has held steady thereafter. But if you […]

Age adjustment mortality update

Earlier today I discussed a paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton in which they noted an increase in mortality rates among non-Hispanic white Americans from 1989 to 2013, a pattern that stood in sharp contrast to a decrease in several other rich countries and among U.S. Hispanics as well: Interpretation of this graph is […]

Correcting statistical biases in “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century”: We need to adjust for the increase in average age of people in the 45-54 category

In a much-noticed paper, Anne Case and Angus Deaton write: This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw […]

Meet the 1 doctor in America who has no opinion on whether cigarette smoking contributes to lung cancer in human beings.

Paul Alper writes: In your blog today you once again criticize Tol’s putative results regarding global warming: “At no point did Tol apologize or thank the people who pointed out his errors; instead he lashed out, over and over again. Irresponsible indeed.” Well, here is something far more irresponsible and depressing. Read Susan Perry: Why […]

3 postdoc opportunities you can’t miss—here in our group at Columbia! Apply NOW, don’t miss out!

Hey, just once, the Buzzfeed-style hype is appropriate. We have 3 amazing postdoc opportunities here, and you need to apply NOW. Here’s the deal: we’re working on some amazing projects. You know about Stan and associated exciting projects in computational statistics. There’s the virtual database query, which is the way I like to describe our […]

PMXStan: an R package to facilitate Bayesian PKPD modeling with Stan

From Yuan Xiong, David A James, Fei He, and Wenping Wang at Novartis. Full version of the poster here.

An unconvincing analysis claiming to debunk the health benefits of moderate drinking

Daniel Lakeland writes: This study on alcohol consumption (by Craig Knott, Ngaire Coombs, Emmanuel Stamatakis, and Jane Biddulph) was written up in the BMJ editorials as “Alcohol’s Evaporating health benefits.” They conveniently show their data in a table, so that they can avoid graphing a “J” shape that they constantly allude to being wrong… But […]

Medical decision making under uncertainty

Gur Huberman writes: The following crossed my mind, following a recent panel discussion in which David Madigan participated on evidence-based medicine. The panel—especially John Iaonnidis—sang the praise of clinical trials. You may have nothing wise to say about it—or pose the question to your blog followers. Suppose there’s a standard clinical procedure to address a […]

Let’s apply for some of that sweet, sweet National Sanitation Foundation funding

Paul Alper pointed me to this news article about where the bacteria and fungi hang out on airplanes. This is a topic that doesn’t interest me at all, but then I noticed this, at the very end of the article: Note: A previous version of this article cited the National Science Foundation rather than the […]

Performing design calculations (type M and type S errors) on a routine basis?

Somebody writes writes: I am conducting a survival analysis (median follow up ~10 years) of subjects who enrolled on a prospective, non-randomized clinical trial for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. The data were originally collected for research purposes and specifically to determine PFS and OS of the investigational regimen versus historic controls. The trial has been […]

A political sociological course on statistics for high school students

Ben Frisch writes: I am designing a semester long non-AP Statistics course for high school juniors and seniors. I am wondering if you had some advice for the design of my class. My currentthinking for the design of the class includes: 0) Brief introduction to R/ R Studio and descriptive statistics and data sheet structure. […]

Aahhhhh, young people!

Amusingly statistically illiterate headline from Slate: “Apple Notices That Basically Half the Population Menstruates.” Ummmm, let’s do a quick calculation: 50 – 12 = 38. If you assume the average woman lives to be 80, then the proportion of the population who is menstruating is approximately .52*38/80 = .247. 25% is hardly “basically half”! But […]

“Soylent 1.5” < black beans and yoghurt

Mark Palko quotes Justin Fox: On Monday, software engineer Rob Rhinehart published an account of his new life without alternating electrical current — which he has undertaken because generating that current “produces 32 percent of all greenhouse gases, more than any other economic sector.” Connection to the power grid isn’t all Rhinehart has given up. […]

Macartan Humphreys on the Worm Wars

My Columbia political science colleague shares “What Has Been Learned from the Deworming Replications: A Nonpartisan View”: Last month there was another battle in a dispute between economists and epidemiologists over the merits of mass deworming.1 In brief, economists claim there is clear evidence that cheap deworming interventions have large effects on welfare via increased […]

Classifying causes of death using “verbal autopsies”

Tyler McCormick sent along this paper, “Probabilistic Cause-of-death Assignment using Verbal Autopsies,” coauthored with Zehang Li, Clara Calvert, Amelia Crampin, Kathleen Kahn, and Samuel Clark: In areas without complete-coverage civil registration and vital statistics systems there is uncertainty about even the most basic demographic indicators. In such areas the majority of deaths occur outside hospitals […]

Pro Publica’s new Surgeon Scorecards

Skyler Johnson writes: You should definitely weigh in on this… Pro Publica created “Surgeon Scorecards” based upon risk adjusted surgery compilation rates. They used hierarchical modeling via the lmer package in R. For detailed methodology, click the methodology “how we calculated complications” link, then atop that next page click on the detailed methodology to download […]

Michael LaCour in 20 years

In case you were wondering what “Bruno” Lacour will be doing a couple decades from now . . . James Delaney pointed me to this CNN news article, “Connecticut’s strict gun law linked to large homicide drop” by Carina Storrs: The rate of gun-related murders fell sharply in the 10 years after Connecticut implemented a […]