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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

Boo! Who’s afraid of availability bias?

Just in time for Halloween: I came across this 2-minute video by Brian Zikmund-Fisher, a professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan, and I took a look because I was curious what he had to say. The video is called “Why aren’t we more scared of measles?” and has the […]

People used to send me ugly graphs, now I get these things

Antonio Rinaldi points me to this journal article which reports: We found a sinusoidal pattern in CMM [cutaneous malignant melanoma] risk by season of birth (P = 0.006). . . . Adjusted odds ratios for CMM by season of birth were 1.21 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.05–1.39; P = 0.008] for spring, 1.07 (95% CI, […]

One of the worst infographics ever, but people don’t care?

This post is by Phil Price. Perhaps prompted by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, this infographic has been making the rounds: I think this is one of the worst I have ever seen. I don’t know where it came from, so I can’t give credit/blame where it’s due. Let’s put aside the numbers themselves – […]

The health policy innovation center: how best to move from pilot studies to large-scale practice?

A colleague pointed me to this news article regarding evaluation of new health plans: The Affordable Care Act would fund a new research outfit evocatively named the Innovation Center to discover how to most effectively deliver health care, with $10 billion to spend over a decade. But now that the center has gotten started, many […]

The Ben Geen case: Did a naive interpretation of a cluster of cases send an innocent nurse to prison until 2035?

In a paper called “Rarity of Respiratory Arrest,” Richard Gill writes: Statistical analysis of monthly rates of events in around 20 hospitals and over a period of about 10 years shows that respiratory arrest, though about five times less frequent than cardio-respiratory arrest, is a common occurrence in the Emergency Department of a typical smaller […]

“The Europeans and Australians were too eager to believe in renal denervation”

As you can see, I’m having a competition with myself for the most boring title ever. The story, though, is not boring. Paul Alper writes: I just came across this in the NYT. Here is the NEJM article itself: And here is the editorial in the NEJM: The gist is that on the basis of […]

“P.S. Is anyone working on hierarchical survival models?”

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous writes: I’m working on building a predictive model (not causal) of the onset of diabetes mellitus using electronic medical records from a semi-panel of HMO patients. The dependent variable is blood glucose level. The unit of analysis is the patient visit to a network doctor or hospitalization in a […]

As if we needed another example of lying with statistics and not issuing a correction: bike-share injuries

This post is by Phil Price A Washington Post article says “In the first study of its kind, researchers from Washington State University and elsewhere found  a 14 percent greater risk of head injuries to cyclists associated with cities that have bike share programs. In fact, when they compared raw head injury data for cyclists […]

Spring forward, fall back, drop dead?

Antonio Rinaldi points me to a press release describing a recent paper by Amneet Sandhu, Milan Seth, and Hitinder Gurm, where I got the above graphs (sorry about the resolution, that’s the best I could do). Here’s the press release: Data from the largest study of its kind in the U.S. reveal a 25 percent […]

Hurricanes vs. Himmicanes

The story’s on the sister blog and I quote liberally from Jeremy Freese, who wrote: The authors have issued a statement that argues against some criticisms of their study that others have offered. These are irrelevant to the above observations, as I [Freese] am taking everything about the measurement and model specification at their word–my […]

A whole fleet of gremlins: Looking more carefully at Richard Tol’s twice-corrected paper, “The Economic Effects of Climate Change”

We had a discussion the other day of a paper, “The Economic Effects of Climate Change,” by economist Richard Tol. The paper came to my attention after I saw a notice from Adam Marcus that it was recently revised because of data errors. But after looking at the paper more carefully, I see a bunch […]

Bill Easterly vs. Jeff Sachs: What percentage of the recipients didn’t use the free malaria bed nets in Zambia?

I came across this from Jeff Sachs: [Bill Easterly in his 2006 book] went on to write that “a study of a program to hand out free [malaria bed] nets in Zambia to people … found that 70 percent of the recipients didn’t use the nets.” Yet this particular study, which was conducted by the […]

What property is important in a risk prediction model? Discrimination or calibration?

Sanjay Kaul writes: I am sure you must be aware of the recent controversy ignited by the 2013 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Cholesterol Treatment Guidelines that were released last month. They have been the subject of several newspaper articles and blogs, most of them missing the thrust of the guidelines. There is much […]

“The graph clearly shows that mammography adds virtually nothing to survival and if anything, decreases survival (and increases cost and provides unnecessary treatment)”

Paul Alper writes: You recently posted on graphs and how to convey information.  I don’t believe you have ever posted anything on this dynamite randomized clinical trial of 90,000 (!!) 40-59 year-old women over a 25-year period (also !!). The graphs below are figures 2, 3 and 4 respectively, of The control was physical […]

Seth Roberts

I met Seth back in the early 1990s when we were both professors at the University of California. He sometimes came to the statistics department seminar and we got to talking about various things; in particular we shared an interest in statistical graphics. Much of my work in this direction eventually went toward the use […]

Ticket to Baaaaarf

A link from the comments here took me to the wonderfully named Barfblog and a report by Don Schaffner on some reporting. First, the background: A university in England issued a press release saying that “Food picked up just a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is […]

Looking for Bayesian expertise in India, for the purpose of analysis of sarcoma trials

Prakash Nayak writes: I work as a musculoskeletal oncologist (surgeon) in Mumbai, India and am keen on sarcoma research. Sarcomas are rare disorders, and conventional frequentist analysis falls short of providing meaningful results for clinical application. I am thus keen on applying Bayesian analysis to a lot of trials performed with small numbers in this […]

An old discussion of food deserts

I happened to be reading an old comment thread from 2012 (follow the link from here) and came across this amusing exchange: Perhaps this is the paper Jonathan was talking about? Here’s more from the thread: Anyway, I don’t have anything to add right now, I just thought it was an interesting discussion.

The world’s most popular languages that the Mac documentation hasn’t been translated into

I was updating my Mac and noticed the following: Lots of obscure European languages there. That got me wondering: what’s the least obscure language not on the above list? Igbo? Swahili? Or maybe Tagalog? I did a quick google and found this list of languages by number of native speakers. Once you see the list, […]

More on US health care overkill

Paul Alper writes: You recently posted my moving and widening the goalposts contention. In it, I mentioned “how diagnoses increase markedly while deaths are flatlined” indicating that we are being overdiagnosed and overtreated. Above are 5 frightening graphs which illustrate the phenomenon. Defenders of the system might (ludicrously) contend that it is precisely the aggressive […]