Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

Flaws in stupid horrible algorithm revealed because it made numerical predictions

Kaiser Fung points to this news article by David Jackson and Gary Marx: The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is ending a high-profile program that used computer data mining to identify children at risk for serious injury or death after the agency’s top official called the technology unreliable. . . . Two Florida […]

Problems with surrogate markers

Paul Alper points us to this article in Health News Review—I can’t figure out who wrote it—warning of problems with the use of surrogate outcomes for policy evaluation: “New drug improves bone density by 40%.” At first glance, this sounds like great news. But there’s a problem: We have no idea if this means the […]

Answering the question, What predictors are more important?, going beyond p-value thresholding and ranking

Daniel Kapitan writes: We are in the process of writing a paper on the outcome of cataract surgery. A (very rough!) draft can be found here, to provide you with some context:  https://www.overleaf.com/read/wvnwzjmrffmw. Using standard classification methods (Python sklearn, with synthetic oversampling to address the class imbalance), we are able to predict a poor outcome […]

Power analysis and NIH-style statistical practice: What’s the implicit model?

So. Following up on our discussion of “the 80% power lie,” I was thinking about the implicit model underlying NIH’s 80% power rule. Several commenters pointed out that, to have your study design approved by NSF, it’s not required that you demonstrate that you have 80% power for real; what’s needed is to show 80% […]

Chasing the noise in industrial A/B testing: what to do when all the low-hanging fruit have been picked?

Commenting on this post on the “80% power” lie, Roger Bohn writes: The low power problem bugged me so much in the semiconductor industry that I wrote 2 papers about around 1995. Variability estimates come naturally from routine manufacturing statistics, which in semicon were tracked carefully because they are economically important. The sample size is […]

About that quasi-retracted study on the Mediterranean diet . . .

Some people asked me what I thought about this story. A reporter wrote to me about it last week, asking if it looked like fraud. Here’s my reply: Based on the description, there does not seem to be the implication of fraud. The editor’s report mentioned “protocol deviations, including the enrollment of participants who were […]

Stan Workshop on Pharmacometrics—Paris, 24 July 2018

What: A one-day event organized by France Mentre (IAME, INSERM, Univ SPC, Univ Paris 7, Univ Paris 13) and Julie Bertrand (INSERM) and sponsored by the International Society of Pharmacometrics (ISoP). When: Tuesday 24 July 2018 Where: Faculté Bichat, 16 rue Henri Huchard, 75018 Paris Free Registration: Registration is being handled by ISoP; please click […]

The necessity—and the difficulty—of admitting failure in research and clinical practice

Bill Jefferys sends along this excellent newspaper article by Siddhartha Mukherjee, “A failure to heal,” about the necessity—and the difficulty—of admitting failure in research and clinical practice. Mukherjee writes: What happens when a clinical trial fails? This year, the Food and Drug Administration approved some 40 new medicines to treat human illnesses, including 13 for […]

Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, and the FDA

I just read this horrifying magazine article by Patrick Radden Keefe: The Family That Built an Empire of Pain: The Sackler dynasty’s ruthless marketing of painkillers has generated billions of dollars—and millions of addicts. You really have to read the whole thing, because it’s just one story after another of bad behavior, people getting rich […]

“Human life is unlimited – but short”

Holger Rootzén and Dmitrii Zholud write: This paper studies what can be inferred from data about human mortality at extreme age. We find that in western countries and Japan and after age 110 the risk of dying is constant and is about 47% per year. Hence data does not support that there is a finite […]

“This is a weakness of our Bayesian Data Analysis book: We don’t have a lot of examples with informative priors.”

Roy Tamura writes: I am trying to implement a recommendation you made a few years ago. In my clinical trial of drug versus placebo, patients were stratified into two cohorts and randomized within strata. Time to event is the endpoint with the proportional hazards regression with strata and treatment as independent factors. There is evidence […]

A link between science and hype? Not always!

Neal Beck points us to this news article by Aaron Carroll, “A Link Between Alcohol and Cancer? It’s Not Nearly as Scary as It Seems.” Here’s Carroll: Citing evidence, the American Society of Clinical Oncology warned that even light drinking could increase the risk of cancer. . . . It acknowledges that the greatest risks […]

Here are the data and code for that study of Puerto Rico deaths

A study just came out, Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, by Nishant Kishore et al.: Using a representative, stratified sample, we surveyed 3299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico to produce an independent estimate of all-cause mortality after the hurricane. Respondents were asked about displacement, infrastructure loss, and causes of death. We calculated […]

“Not statistically significant” != 0, stents edition

Doug Helmreich writes: OK, I work at a company that is involved in stents, so I’m not unbiased, but… http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_2-11-2017-15-52-46 and especially https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/health/heart-disease-stents.html The research design is pretty cool—placebo participants got a sham surgery with no stent implanted. The results show that people with the stent did have better metrics than those with just the […]

No, there is no epidemic of loneliness. (Or, Dog Bites Man: David Brooks runs another column based on fake stats)

[adorable image] Remember David Brooks? The NYT columnist, NPR darling, and former reporter who couldn’t correctly report the price of a meal at Red Lobster? The guy who got it wrong about where billionaires come from and who thought it was fun to use one of his columns to make fun of a urologist (ha […]

How to reduce Type M errors in exploratory research?

Miao Yu writes: Recently, I found this piece [a news article by Janet Pelley, Sulfur dioxide pollution tied to degraded sperm quality, published in Chemical & Engineering News] and the original paper [Inverse Association between Ambient Sulfur Dioxide Exposure and Semen Quality in Wuhan, China, by Yuewei Liu, published in Environmental Science & Technology]. Air […]

“16 and Pregnant”

Ted Joyce writes: In December 2015 the AER published an article, “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing,” by Melissa Kearney and Phil Levine [KL]. The NBER working paper of this article appeared in January of 2014. It received huge media attention as the authors claimed the […]

43 is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do

Peter Hickman writes: I am a research assistant for an economist, and I just came across something that seems to me to be poor research that is getting media coverage. The Cigna study is here. It’s measuring the degree of loneliness in America. You can click “read the full report” for more details. If you […]

Early p-hacking investments substantially boost adult publication record

In a post with the title “Overstated findings, published in Science, on long-term health effects of a well-known early childhood program,” Perry Wilson writes: In this paper [“Early Childhood Investments Substantially Boost Adult Health,” by Frances Campbell, Gabriella Conti, James Heckman, Seong Hyeok Moon, Rodrigo Pinto, Elizabeth Pungello, and Yi Pan], published in Science in […]

Economic growth -> healthy kids?

Joe Cummins writes: Anaka Aiyar and I have a new working paper on economic growth and child health. Any comments from you or your readers would be much appreciated. In terms of subject matter, it fits in pretty nicely with the Demography discussions on the blog (Deaton/Case, age adjustment, interpreting population level changes in meaningful […]