Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

Derived quantities and generative models

Sandro Ambuehl, who sketched the above non-cat picture, writes: I [Ambuehl] was wondering why we’re not seeing reports measures of Covid19 mortaliy other than the Case Fatality Rate. In particular, what would seem far more instructive to me than CFR is a comparison of the distributions of age at death, depending on whether the diseased […]

We want certainty even when it’s not appropriate

Remember the stents example? An experiment was conducted comparing two medical procedures, the difference had a p-value of 0.20 (after a corrected analysis the p-value was 0.09) and so it was declared that the treatment had no effect. In other cases, of course, “p less than 0.10” is enough for publication in PNAS and multiple […]

In case you’re wondering . . . this is why the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world

Read the above letter carefully, then remember this. (Greg Mankiw called comparisons of life expectancies schlocky, but maybe he’ll feel different about this once he reaches the age of 70 or 75 . . .) P.S. This doesn’t help either.

Low rate of positive coronavirus tests

As happens sometimes, I receive two related emails on the same day. Noah Harris writes: I was wondering if you have any comment on the NY State Covid numbers. Day after day the positive percentage stays in a tight range of about 0.85-0.99%. How can the range be so narrow and stable? Do you think […]

Coronavirus disparities in Palestine and in Michigan

I wanted to share two articles that were sent to me recently, one focusing on data collection and one focusing on data analysis. On the International Statistical Institute blog, Ola Awad writes: The Palestinian economy is micro — with the majority of establishments employing less than 10 workers, and the informal sector making up about […]

FDA statistics scandal update

The other day we reported on the director of the FDA who got embarrassed after garbling some statistics at a news conference. At the time, I wrote: The commissioner of the FDA might well too busy to be carefully reading the individual studies. I assume the fault is with whatever assistant prepared the numbers for […]

Statistics is hard, especially if you don’t know any statistics (FDA edition)

Paul Alper shares this story: From the NYT: Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said 35 out of 100 Covid-19 patients “would have been saved because of the administration of plasma.” He later walked this back because of confusion between Absolute Risk Reduction and Relative Risk Reduction, a common […]

Do we trust this regression?

Kevin Lewis points us to this article, “Do US TRAP Laws Trap Women Into Bad Jobs?”, which begins: This study explores the impact of women’s access to reproductive healthcare on labor market opportunities in the US. Previous research finds that access to the contraception pill delayed age at first birth and increased access to a […]

Facemasks in Germany

August Torngren Wartin pointed us to this article, “Unmasked! The effect of face masks on the spread of COVID-19,” by Timo Mitze, Reinhold Kosfeld, Johannes Rode, and Klaus Wälde, and asked what I thought. My reply: I’ve not looked at it in detail but it seems reasonable. I’m sharing this for a few reasons. First, […]

Some possibly different experiences of being a statistician working with an international collaborative research group like OHDSI.

This post is by Keith O’Rourke and as with all posts and comments on this blog, is just a deliberation on dealing with uncertainties in scientific inquiry and should not to be attributed to any entity other than the author. Starting at the end of March, I thought it would be good idea to let […]

epidemia: An R package for Bayesian epidemiological modeling

Jamie Scott writes: I am a PhD candidate at Imperial College, and have been working with colleagues here to write an R package for fitting Bayesian epidemiological models using Stan. We thought this might interest readers of your blog, as it is based on work previously featured there. The package is similar in spirit to […]

How much of public health work “involves not technology but methodicalness and record keeping”?

Palko points us to this interesting point from Josh Marhsall: I [Marshall] am always struck by, amazed at how much of public health work involves not technology but methodicalness and record keeping. In purely technological terms much of it could have been done 100 years ago or, in outlines at least, 500 years ago. Phones […]

The EpiBayes research group at the University of Michigan has a postdoc opening!

Jon Zelner writes: The EpiBayes research group, led by Dr. Jon Zelner in the Dept. of Epidemiology and Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health (CSEPH) at the University of Michigan School of Public Health seeks a postdoctoral fellow to work with us on a variety of projects relating to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and […]

This is your chance to comment on the U.S. government’s review of evidence on the effectiveness of home visiting. Comments are due by 1 Sept.

Emily Sama-Miller writes: The federally sponsored Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness (HomVEE) systematic evidence review is seeking public comment on proposed updates to its standards and procedures. HomVEE reviews research literature on home visiting for families with pregnant women and children from birth to kindergarten entry, and its results are used to inform federal funding […]

That “not a real doctor” thing . . . It’s kind of silly for people to think that going to medical school for a few years will give you the skills necessary to be able to evaluate research claims in medicine or anything else.

Paul Alper points us to this news article by Abby Phillip, “How a fake doctor made millions from ‘the Dr. Oz Effect’ and a bogus weight-loss supplement,” which begins: When Lindsey Duncan appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” in 2012, he was introduced as a “naturopathic doctor” and a certified nutritionist. . . . But […]

Math error in herd immunity calculation from CNN epidemiology expert

Michael Weissman and Sander Greenland write: Sanjay Gupta and Andrea Kane just ran an extensive front-page CNN article reporting that some residual T-cell immune responses cross-react with SARS-Cov-19, perhaps enough to provide many people with some protection. The article seemed straightforward and reasonable enough until it got to this strangely erroneous statement: For herd immunity, […]

BMJ update: authors reply to our concerns (but I’m not persuaded)

Last week we discussed an article in the British Medical Journal that seemed seriously flawed to me, based on evidence such as the above graph. At the suggestion of Elizabeth Loder, I submitted a comment to the paper on the BMJ website. Here’s what I wrote: I am concerned that the model does not fit […]

Can the science community help journalists avoid science hype? It won’t be easy.

tl;dr: Selection bias. The public letter Michael Eisen and Rob Tibshirani write: Researchers have responded to the challenge of the coronavirus with a commitment to speed and cooperation, featuring the rapid sharing of preliminary findings through “preprints,” scientific manuscripts that have not yet undergone formal peer review. . . . But the open dissemination of […]

Coronavirus corrections, data sources, and issues.

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. I’ve got a backlog of COVID-related stuff I’ve been meaning to post. I had intended to do a separate post about each of these, complete with citations and documentations, but the weeks are flying by and I’ve got to admit that that’s not going to happen. So […]

My talk this Wed 7:30pm (NY time) / Thurs 9:30am (Australian time) at the Victorian Centre for Biostatistics

The “Victorian Centre for Biostatistics,” huh? I guess maybe I should speak about Francis Galton or something. Actually, though, I’ll be giving this talk: Bayesian workflow as demonstrated with a coronavirus example We recently fit a series of models to account for uncertainty and variation in coronavirus tests (see here). We will talk about the […]