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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

The Mannequin

[cat picture] Jonathan Falk points to this article, “Examining the impact of grape consumption on brain metabolism and cognitive function in patients with mild decline in cognition: A double-blinded placebo controlled pilot study,” and writes: Drink up! N=10, no effect on thing you’re aiming at, p value result on a few brain measurements (out of?), […]

Research connects overpublication during national sporting events to science-journalism problems

[cat picture] Ivan Oransky pointed me to a delightful science-based press release, “One’s ability to make money develops before birth”: Researchers from the Higher School of Economics have shown how the level of perinatal testosterone, the sex hormone, impacts a person’s earnings in life. Prior research confirms that many skills and successes are linked to […]

Pizzagate, or the curious incident of the researcher in response to people pointing out 150 errors in four of his papers

There are a bunch of things about this story that just don’t make a lot of sense to me. For those who haven’t been following the blog recently, here’s the quick backstory: Brian Wansink is a Cornell University business school professor and self-described “world-renowned eating behavior expert for over 25 years.” It’s come out that […]

Absence of evidence is evidence of alcohol?

Arho Toikka writes: I ran across what I feel is a pretty peculiar use of statistical significance and p-values, and thought I’d send you a message and see if you find it interesting too or if I’m just confused about something: I read a news story about a study that showed that previous studies on […]

If I had a long enough blog delay, I could just schedule this one for 1 Jan 2026

Gaurav Sood points us to this post, “Why did so many Japanese families avoid having children in 1966?”, by Randy Olson, which includes the excellent graph above and the following explanation: The Japanese use [an] . . . astrological system . . . based on the Chinese zodiac. Along with assigning an astrological beast based […]

“Estimating trends in mortality for the bottom quartile, we found little evidence that survival probabilities declined dramatically.”

Last year there was much discussion here and elsewhere about a paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who noticed that death rates for non-Hispanic white Americans aged 45-54 had been roughly flat since 1999, even while the death rates for this age category had been declining steadily in other countries and among nonwhite Americans. […]

Fragility index is too fragile

Simon Gates writes: Where is an issue that has had a lot of publicity and Twittering in the clinical trials world recently. Many people are promoting the use of the “fragility index” (paper attached) to help interpretation of “significant” results from clinical trials. The idea is that it gives a measure of how robust the […]

Migration explaining observed changes in mortality rate in different geographic areas?

We know that the much-discussed increase in mortality among middle-aged U.S. whites is mostly happening among women in the south. In response to some of that discussion, Tim Worstall wrote: I [Worstall] have a speculative answer. It is absolutely speculative: but it is also checkable to some extent. Really, I’m channelling my usual critique of […]

You’ll have to figure this one out for yourselves.

So. The other day this following email comes in, subject line “Grabbing headlines using poor statistical methods,” from Clifford Anderson-Bergman:

“Calm Down. American Life Expectancy Isn’t Falling.”

Ben Hanowell writes: In the middle of December 2016 there were a lot of headlines about the drop in US life expectancy from 2014 to 2015. Most of these articles painted a grim picture of US population health. Many reporters wrote about a “trend” of decreasing life expectancy in America. The trouble is that the […]

So little information to evaluate effects of dietary choices

Paul Alper points to this excellent news article by Aaron Carroll, who tells us how little information is available in studies of diet and public health. Here’s Carroll: Just a few weeks ago, a study was published in the Journal of Nutrition that many reports in the news media said proved that honey was no […]

Interesting epi paper using Stan

Jon Zelner writes: Just thought I’d send along this paper by Justin Lessler et al. Thought it was both clever & useful and a nice ad for using Stan for epidemiological work. Basically, what this paper is about is estimating the true prevalence and case fatality ratio of MERS-CoV [Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Infection] […]

“Breakfast skipping, extreme commutes, and the sex composition at birth”

Bhash Mazumder sends along a paper (coauthored with Zachary Seeskin) which begins: A growing body of literature has shown that environmental exposures in the period around conception can affect the sex ratio at birth through selective attrition that favors the survival of female conceptuses. Glucose availability is considered a key indicator of the fetal environment, […]

Can a census-tract-level regression analysis untangle correlation between lead and crime?

Daniel Hawkins pointed me to a post by Kevin Drum entitled, “Crime in St. Louis: It’s Lead, Baby, Lead,” and the associated research article by Brian Boutwell, Erik Nelson, Brett Emo, Michael Vaughn, Mario Schootman, Richard Rosenfeld, Roger Lewis, “The intersection of aggregate-level lead exposure and crime.” The short story is that the areas of […]

Updating the Forecast on Election Night with R

Pierre-Antoine Kremp made this cool widget that takes his open-source election forecaster (it aggregates state and national polls using a Stan program that runs from R) and computes conditional probabilities. Here’s the starting point, based on the pre-election polls and forecast information: These results come from the fitted Stan model which gives simulations representing a […]

Conflicts of interest

Paul Alper writes: The following involves Novartis so it may be of interest to you. This Washington Post article headline says: Extending anti-estrogen therapy to 10 years reduces breast-cancer recurrence, new cancers Nevertheless, However, women who were treated with the drug for a total 10 years didn’t live longer than those who were given a […]

Should you abandon that low-salt diet? (uh oh, it’s the Lancet!)

Russ Lyons sends along this news article by Ian Johnston, who writes: The prestigious medical journal The Lancet has been attacked for publishing an academic paper that claimed eating too little salt could increase the chance of dying from a heart attack or stroke. Johnston summarizes the study: Researchers from the Population Health Research Institute […]

No, I don’t think the Super Bowl is lowering birth weights

In a news article entitled, “Inequality might start before we’re even born,” Carolyn Johnson reports: Another study, forthcoming in the Journal of Human Resources, analyzed birth outcomes in counties where the home team goes to the Super Bowl. . . . The researchers found that women in their first trimester whose home team played in […]

Heimlich

Paul Alper writes: Heimlich who is 96, was in the news lately, saving a woman, 87 years old, using the technique he invented. So, off to Wikipedia: Henry Judah Heimlich (born February 3, 1920) is an American thoracic surgeon widely credited as the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver, a technique of abdominal … where I […]

Astroturf “patient advocacy” group pushes to keep drug prices high

Susan Perry tells the story: Patients Rising, [reporter Trudy Lieberman] reports, was founded by Jonathan Wilcox, a corporate communications and public relations consultant and adjunct professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications and his wife, Terry, a producer of oncology videos. . . . Both Wilcox and his wife had worked with Vital Options International, […]