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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

Postdoc in Alabama on obesity-related research using statistics

David Allison writes:

Best Disclaimer Ever

Paul Alper sends this in, from the article, “Ovarian cancer screening and mortality in the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS): a randomised controlled trial,” by Ian J Jacobs, Usha Menon, Andy Ryan, Aleksandra Gentry-Maharaj, Matthew Burnell, Jatinderpal K Kalsi, Nazar N Amso, Sophia Apostolidou, Elizabeth Benjamin, Derek Cruickshank, Danielle N Crump, Susan […]

Somebody’s reading our research.

See footnote 10 on page 5 of this GAO report. (The above graphs are just for age 45-54, which demonstrates an important thing about statistical graphics: They should be as self-contained as possible. Otherwise when the graph is separated from its caption, it requires additional words of explanation, as you are seeing here.)

Numbers too good to be true? Or: Thanks, Obama!?

This post is by Phil. The “Affordable Care Act” a.k.a. “Obamacare” was passed in 2010, with its various pieces coming into play over the following few years. One of those pieces is penalties for hospitals that see high readmission rates. The theory here, or at least one of the theories here, was that hospitals could […]

Kalesan, Fagan, and Galea respond to criticism of their paper on gun laws and deaths

The other day we posted some remarks on a recent paper by Bindu Kalesan, Jeffrey Fagan, Sandro Galea, “Firearm legislation and firearm mortality in the USA: a cross-sectional, state-level study.” In response to the criticisms from me and various commenters, the authors of the paper prepared a detailed response, which I’m linking to here. They […]

Job opening . . . for a data graphics editor!

Larry Wheeler writes: I’m the managing editor at Health Affairs, a monthly peer-reviewed journal about health policy. We publish a lot of statistical graphics submitted with manuscripts from academic, industry, and government researchers. We have a job opening for a new position we’re calling “data graphics editor.” I’ve been having trouble attracting the right kind […]

Fundamental difficulty of inference for a ratio when the denominator could be positive or negative

I happened to come across this post from 2011, which in turn is based on thoughts of mine from about 1993. It’s important and most of you probably haven’t seen it, so here it is again: Ratio estimates are common in statistics. In survey sampling, the ratio estimate is when you use y/x to estimate […]

Fast analysis, soft statistics, and junk data intake is unrelated to research quality for 0% of American scientists

Under the heading, “Yet another bad analysis making the rounds,” John Mount writes: This won’t waste much of your time—because there really isn’t much there. But I thought you would be disturbed by this new paper. Here’s my (Mount’s) commentary on what we can surmise about the methods. Mount is pretty scathing. He starts with […]

Where the fat people at?

Pearly Dhingra points me to this article, “The Geographic Distribution of Obesity in the US and the Potential Regional Differences in Misreporting of Obesity,” by Anh Le, Suzanne Judd, David Allison, Reena Oza-Frank, Olivia Affuso, Monika Safford, Virginia Howard, and George Howard, who write: Data from BRFSS [the behavioral risk factor surveillance system] suggest that […]

Stunning breakthrough: Using Stan to map cancer screening!

Paul Alper points me to this article, Breast Cancer Screening, Incidence, and Mortality Across US Counties, by Charles Harding, Francesco Pompei, Dmitriy Burmistrov, Gilbert Welch, Rediet Abebe, and Richard Wilson. Their substantive conclusion is there’s too much screening going on, but here I want to focus on their statistical methods: Spline methods were used to […]

Placebo effect shocker: After reading this, you won’t know what to believe.

Martha Smith writes: Yesterday’ BBC News Magazine featured an article by William Kremer entitled, “”Why are placebos getting more effective?”, which looks like a possibility for a blog post discussing how people treat surprising effects. The article asserts that the placebo effect has been decreasing, especially in the U.S. The author asks, “Why? What could […]

Is a 60% risk reduction really no big deal?

Paul Alper writes: Here’s something really important. Notice how meaningless the numbers can be. Referring to a 60% risk reduction in flu due to the flu vaccine: As for the magical “60?” Dr. Tom Jefferson didn’t mince words: “Sorry I have no idea where the 60% comes from – it’s either pure propaganda or bandied […]

Middle-aged white death trends update: It’s all about women in the south

Jonathan Auerbach and I wrote up some of the age-adjustment stuff we discussed on this blog a couple months ago. Here’s our article, a shorter version of which will appear as a letter in PPNAS. And here’s the new analysis we did showing age-adjusted death rates for 45-54-year-old non-Hispanic white men and women: Wow!! Remember […]

Pro-PACE, anti-PACE

Pro Simon Wessely, a psychiatrist who has done research on chronic fatigue syndrome, pointed me to an overview of the PACE trial written by its organizers, Peter White, Trudie Chalder, and Michael Sharpe, and also to this post of his from November, coming to the defense of the much-maligned PACE study: Nothing as complex as […]

Cancer statistics: WTF?

This post is by Phil. I know someone who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and is trying to decide whether to get chemo or just let it run its course. What does she have to go on? A bunch of statistics that are barely useful. For example, its easy to find the average survival […]

Paxil: What went wrong?

Dale Lehman points us to this news article by Paul Basken on a study by Joanna Le Noury, John Nardo, David Healy, Jon Jureidin, Melissa Raven, Catalin Tufanaru, and Elia Abi-Jaoude that investigated what went wrong in the notorious study by Martin Keller et al. of the GlaxoSmithKline drug Paxil. Lots of ethical issues here, […]

Givewell wants to put lithium in your drinking water

Actually, they just want to look into the possibility. Alexander Berger of Givewell writes: In the past you’ve written a couple posts about GiveWell’s research, and we’ve recently posted something else that I thought might be of interest to your audience: an expression of interest in research on the impact of trace lithium on suicide […]

The PACE trial and the problems with discrete, yes/no thinking

I don’t often read the Iranian Journal of Cancer Prevention, but I like this quote: I was thinking more about the PACE trial. God is in every leaf of every tree. There’s been a lot of discussion about statistical problems with the PACE papers, and also about the research team’s depressing refusal to share their […]

PACE study and the Lancet: Journal reputation is a two-way street

One thing that struck me about this PACE scandal: if this study was so bad as all that, how did it taken so seriously by policymakers and the press? There’s been a lot of discussion about serious flaws in the published papers, and even more discussion about the unforgivable refusal of the research team to […]

You won’t believe this story: Tamiflu conflict of interest

Paul Alper writes: Maybe it is time to return to really important things such as medical swindles in particular, Tamiflu. Consider Tamifu and its financially-influenced and influential supportors as seen from the fabulous Susan Perry of Minnpost: The group of researchers who conducted the Lancet study [supporting Tamiflu]was described in a commentary that accompanied their […]