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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

What to think about this new study which says that you should limit your alcohol to 5 drinks a week?

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous points us to a recent article in the Lancet, “Risk thresholds for alcohol consumption: combined analysis of individual-participant data for 599 912 current drinkers in 83 prospective studies,” by Angela Wood et al., that’s received a lot of press coverage; for example: Terrifying New Study Breaks Down Exactly How Drinking […]

An actual quote from a paper published in a medical journal: “The data, analytic methods, and study materials will not be made available to other researchers for purposes of reproducing the results or replicating the procedure.”

Someone writes: So the NYT yesterday has a story about this study I am directed to it and am immediately concerned about all the things that make this study somewhat dubious. Forking paths in the definition of the independent variable, sample selection in who wore the accelerometers, ignorance of the undoubtedly huge importance of interactions […]

Predicting spread of flu

Aleks points us to this page on flu prediction. I haven’t looked into it but it seems like an important project.

He had a sudden cardiac arrest. How does this change the probability that he has a particular genetic condition?

Megan McArdle writes: I have a friend with a probability problem I don’t know how to solve. He’s 37 and just keeled over with sudden cardiac arrest, and is trying to figure out how to assess the probability that he has a given condition as his doctors work through his case. He knows I’ve been […]

Understanding Chicago’s homicide spike; comparisons to other cities

Michael Masinter writes: As a longtime blog reader sufficiently wise not to post beyond my academic discipline, I hope you might take a look at what seems to me to be a highly controversial attempt to use regression analysis to blame the ACLU for the recent rise in homicides in Chicago. A summary appears here […]

Perhaps you could try a big scatterplot with one dot per dataset?

Joe Nadeau writes: We are studying variation in both means and variances in metabolic conditions. We have access to nearly 200 datasets that involve a range of metabolic traits and vary in sample size, mean effects, and variance. Some traits differ in mean but not variance, others in variance but not mean, still others in […]

“Fudged statistics on the Iraq War death toll are still circulating today”

Mike Spagat shares this story entitled, “Fudged statistics on the Iraq War death toll are still circulating today,” which discusses problems with a paper published in a scientific journal in 2006, and errors that a reporter inadvertently included in a recent news article. Spagat writes: The Lancet could argue that if [Washington Post reporter Philip] […]

My talk tomorrow (Tues) 4pm in the Biomedical Informatics department (at 168th St)

The talk is 4-5pm in Room 200 on the 20th floor of the Presbyterian Hospital Building, Columbia University Medical Center. I’m not sure what I’m gonna talk about. It’ll depend on what people are interested in discussing. Here are some possible topics: – The failure of null hypothesis significance testing when studying incremental changes, and […]

Job opening at CDC: “The Statistician will play a central role in guiding the statistical methods of all major projects of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the CDC Influenza Division, and aid in designing, analyzing, and interpreting research intended to understand the burden of influenza in the US and internationally and identify the best influenza vaccines and vaccine strategies.”

This sounds super interesting: Vacancy Information: Mathematical Statistician, GS-1529-14 Please apply at one of the following: · DE (External candidates to the US GOV) Announcement: HHS-CDC-D3-18-10312897 · MP (Internal candidates to the US GOV) Announcement: HHS-CDC-M3-18-10312898 Location: Atlanta, GA – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease – […]

What if a big study is done and nobody reports it?

Paul Alper writes: Your blog often contains criticisms of articles which get too much publicity. Here is an instance of the obverse (inverse? reverse?) where a worthy publication dealing with a serious medical condition is virtually ignored. From Michael Joyce at the ever-reliable and informative Healthnewsreview.org: Prostate cancer screening: massive study gets minimal coverage. Why? […]

Some clues that this study has big big problems

Paul Alper writes: This article from the New York Daily News, reproduced in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, is so terrible in so many ways. Very sad commentary regarding all aspects of statistics education and journalism. The news article, by Joe Dziemianowicz, is called “Study says drinking alcohol is key to living past 90,” with subheading, […]

Problems in a published article on food security in the Lower Mekong Basin

John Williams points us to this article, “Designing river flows to improve food security futures in the Lower Mekong Basin,” by John Sabo et al., featured in the journal Science. Williams writes: The article exhibits multiple forking paths, a lack of theory, and abundant jargon. It is also very carelessly written and reviewed. For example, […]

It was the weeds that bothered him.

Bill Jefferys points to this news article by Denise Grady. Bill noticed the following bit, “In male rats, the studies linked tumors in the heart to high exposure to radiation from the phones. But that problem did not occur in female rats, or any mice,” and asked: ​Forking paths, much? My reply: The summary of […]

Discussion of the value of a mathematical model for the dissemination of propaganda

A couple people pointed me to this article, “How to Beat Science and Influence People: Policy Makers and Propaganda in Epistemic Networks,” by James Weatherall, Cailin O’Connor, and Justin Bruner, also featured in this news article. Their paper begins: In their recent book Merchants of Doubt [New York:Bloomsbury 2010], Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway describe […]

Some thoughts after reading “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup”

I just read the above-titled John Carreyrou book, and it’s as excellent as everyone says it is. I suppose it’s the mark of any compelling story that it will bring to mind other things you’ve been thinking about, and in this case I saw many connections between the story of Theranos—a company that raised billions […]

China air pollution regression discontinuity update

Avery writes: There is a follow up paper for the paper “Evidence on the impact of sustained exposure to air pollution on life expectancy from China’s Huai River policy” [by Yuyu Chen, Avraham Ebenstein, Michael Greenstone, and Hongbin Li] which you have posted on a couple times and used in lectures. It seems that there […]

“Seeding trials”: medical marketing disguised as science

Paul Alper points to this horrifying news article by Mary Chris Jaklevic, “how a medical device ‘seeding trial’ disguised marketing as science.” I’d never heard of “seeding trials” before. Here’s Jaklevic: As a new line of hip implants was about to be launched in 2000, a stunning email went out from the manufacturer’s marketing department. […]

Is it really true that babies should sleep on their backs?

Asher Meir writes: Arnold Kling is a well-regarded economics blogger. Here he expresses skepticism about the strength of the evidence behind recommending that babies sleep on their backs. I recall seeing another blogger expressing the same doubt at some length, or maybe it is another post by Arnold, I can’t find it right now. Of […]

The file drawer’s on fire!

Kevin Lewis sends along this article, commenting, “That’s one smokin’ file drawer!” Here’s the story, courtesy of Clayton Velicer, Gideon St. Helen, and Stanton Glantz: We examined the relationship between the tobacco industry and the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (RTP) using the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library and internet sources. We determined the funding […]

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 […]