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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

You can read two versions of this review essay on systemic exertion intolerance disease (chronic fatigue syndrome)

Julie Rehmeyer wrote a book, “Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand,” and my review appeared in the online New Yorker, much shortened and edited, and given the title, “A memoir of chronic fatigue illustrates the failures of medical research.” My original was titled, “Systemic exertion intolerance disease: The […]

Maternal death rate problems in North Carolina

Somebody named Jerrod writes: I though you might find this article [“Black moms die in childbirth 3 times as often as white moms. Except in North Carolina,” by Julia Belluz] interesting as it relates to some of your interests in health data and combines it with bad analysis and framing. My beef with the article: […]

Bayesian, but not Bayesian enough

Will Moir writes: This short New York Times article on a study published in BMJ might be of interest to you and your blog community, both in terms of how the media reports science and also the use of bayesian vs frequentist statistics in the study itself. Here is the short summary from the news […]

Problems with the jargon “statistically significant” and “clinically significant”

Someone writes: After listening to your EconTalk episode a few weeks ago, I have a question about interpreting treatment effect magnitudes, effect sizes, SDs, etc. I studied Econ/Math undergrad and worked at a social science research institution in health policy as a research assistant, so I have a good amount of background. At the institution […]

Where’d the $2500 come from?

Brad Buchsbaum writes: Sometimes I read the New York Times “Well” articles on science and health. It’s a mixed bag, sometimes it’s quite good and sometimes not. I came across this yesterday: What’s the Value of Exercise? $2,500 For people still struggling to make time for exercise, a new study offers a strong incentive: You’ll […]

“Bombshell” statistical evidence for research misconduct, and what to do about it?

Someone pointed me to this post by Nick Brown discussing a recent article by John Carlisle regarding scientific misconduct. Here’s Brown: [Carlisle] claims that he has found statistical evidence that a surprisingly high proportion of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) contain data patterns that cannot have arisen by chance. . . . the implication is that […]

More graphs of mortality trends

Corinne Riddell writes: In late March you released a series of plots visualizing mortality rates over time by race and gender. For almost a year now, we’ve been working on a similar project and have compiled all of our findings into an R shiny web app here, with a preprint of our first manuscript here. […]

Come to Seattle to work with us on Stan!

Our colleague Jon Wakefield in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Washington is interested in supervising a 2-year postdoc through this training program. We’re interested in finding someone who would with Jon and another faculty member (who is assigned on the basis of interests) on exciting projects in spatio-temporal modeling and the environmental […]

All the things we have to do that we don’t really need to do: The social cost of junk science

I’ve been thinking a lot about junk science lately. Some people have said it’s counterproductive or rude of me to keep talking about the same few examples (actually I think we have about 15 or so examples that come up again and again), so let me just speak generically about the sort of scientific claim […]

How to interpret “p = .06” in situations where you really really want the treatment to work?

We’ve spent a lot of time during the past few years discussing the difficulty of interpreting “p less than .05” results from noisy studies. Standard practice is to just take the point estimate and confidence interval, but this is in general wrong in that it overestimates effect size (type M error) and can get the […]

Riddle me this

[cat picture] Paul Alper writes: From Susan Perry’s article based on Paul Hacker’s BMJ article: In 2015, the University of Colorado had to shut down its nonprofit Global Energy Balance Network after the organization was exposed as being essentially a “scientific” front for its funder, Coca-Cola. The University of Colorado School of Medicine returned […]

The statistical crisis in science: How is it relevant to clinical neuropsychology?

[cat picture] Hilde Geurts and I write: There is currently increased attention to the statistical (and replication) crisis in science. Biomedicine and social psychology have been at the heart of this crisis, but similar problems are evident in a wide range of fields. We discuss three examples of replication challenges from the field of social […]

Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index

Chris Famighetti points us to this page which links to an interactive visualization. There are some problems with the mapping software—when I clicked through, it showed a little map of the western part of the U.S., accompanied by huge swathes of Canada and the Pacific Ocean—and I haven’t taken a look at the methodology. But […]

A whole fleet of Wansinks: is “evidence-based design” a pseudoscience that’s supporting a trillion-dollar industry?

Following a recent post that mentioned

The next Lancet retraction? [“Subcortical brain volume differences in participants with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults”]

[cat picture] Someone who prefers to remain anonymous asks for my thoughts on this post by Michael Corrigan and Robert Whitaker, “Lancet Psychiatry Needs to Retract the ADHD-Enigma Study: Authors’ conclusion that individuals with ADHD have smaller brains is belied by their own data,” which begins: Lancet Psychiatry, a UK-based medical journal, recently published a […]

Drug-funded profs push drugs

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous writes: I just read a long ProPublica article that I think your blog commenters might be interested in. It’s from February, but was linked to by the Mad Biologist today ( Here is a link to the article: In short, it’s about a group of professors (mainly economists) […]

I wanna be ablated

[cat picture] Mark Dooris writes: I am senior staff cardiologist from Australia. I attach a paper that was presented at our journal club some time ago. It concerned me at the time. I send it as I suspect you collect similar papers. You may indeed already be aware of this paper. I raised my concerns […]

No evidence that providing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants in California decreases traffic safety

[cat picture] So. A reporter asked me what I thought of this article, “Providing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants in California improves traffic safety,” by Hans Lueders, Jens Hainmueller, and Duncan Lawrence. It’s embargoed! so I’m not supposed to post anything on it until now. From the abstract: We examine the short-term effects of . […]

Aggregate age-adjusted trends in death rates for non-Hispanic whites and minorities in the U.S.

Following up on our recent Slate article, Jonathan Auerbach made some graphs of mortality rate trends by sex, ethnicity, and age group, aggregating over the entire country. Earlier we’d graphed the trends within each state but there was so much going on there, it was hard to see the big picture. All our graphs are […]

Easier-to-download graphs of age-adjusted mortality trends by sex, ethnicity, and age group

Jonathan Auerbach and I recently created graphs of smoothed age-adjusted mortality trends from 1999-2014 for: – 50 states – men and women – non-hispanic whites, blacks, and hispanics – age categories 0-1, 1-4, 5-14, 15-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65-74, 75-84. We posted about this on the blog and also wrote an article for Slate […]