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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

“We’ve got to look at the analyses, the real granular data. It’s always tough when you’re looking at a press release to figure out what’s going on.”

Chris Arderne writes: Surprised to see you hadn’t yet discussed the Oxford/AstraZeneca 60%/90% story on the blog. They accidentally changed the dose for some patients without an hypothesis, saw that it worked out better and are now (sort of) claiming 90% as a result… Sounds like your kind of investigation? I hadn’t heard about this […]

Authors repeat same error in 2019 that they acknowledged and admitted was wrong in 2015

David Allison points to this story: Kobel et al. (2019) report results of a cluster randomized trial examining the effectiveness of the “Join the Healthy Boat” kindergarten intervention on BMI percentile, physical activity, and several exploratory outcomes. The authors pre-registered their study and described the outcomes and analysis plan in detail previously, which are to […]

Estimating efficacy of the vaccine from 95 true infections

Gaurav writes: The 94.5% efficacy announcement is based on comparing 5 of 15k to 90 of 15k: On Sunday, an independent monitoring board broke the code to examine 95 infections that were recorded starting two weeks after volunteers’ second dose — and discovered all but five illnesses occurred in participants who got the placebo. Similar […]

How science and science communication really work: coronavirus edition

Now that the election’s over, we can return to our regular coronavirus coverage. Nothing new since last night, so I wanted to share a couple of posts from a few months ago that I think remain relevant: No, there is no “tension between getting it fast and getting it right”: On first hearing, this statement […]

The Pfizer-Biontech Vaccine May Be A Lot More Effective Than You Think?

Ian Fellows writes: I [Fellows] just wrote up a little Bayesian analysis that I thought you might be interested in. Specifically, everyone seems fixated on the 90% effectiveness lower bound reported for the Pfizer vaccine, but the true efficacy is likely closer to 97%. Please let me know if you see any errors. I’m basing […]

“Fake Facts in Covid-19 Science: Kentucky vs. Tennessee.”

I’m writing this on 24 Apr 2020. I’ve been posting coronavirus items immediately and pushing previously scheduled material to the end of the queue (currently Oct and Nov). But this one is already forgotten so I might as well put it in lag. When it appears, you can read it and put yourself in the […]

Public health researchers explain: “Death by despair” is a thing, but not the biggest thing

Arline Geronimus sends along this article, “Weathering, Drugs, and Whack-a-Mole: Fundamental and Proximate Causes of Widening Educational Inequity in U.S. Life Expectancy by Sex and Race, 1990–2015,” with John Bound, Timothy Waidmann, Javier Rodriguez, and Brenden Timpe: Discussion of growing inequity in U.S. life expectancy increasingly focuses on the popularized narrative that it is driven […]

Postdoc in Ann Arbor to work with clinical and cohort studies!

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 several projects relating to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza and […]

Some wrong lessons people will learn from the president’s illness, hospitalization, and expected recovery

Jonathan Falk writes about the president’s illness: I [Falk] would think it provides a focused opportunity to make a few salient statistical education points. First, a 6 percent mortality rate (among old people with comorbidities) is really bad, but any single selected person is really quite unlikely to die, or even be really sick. Same […]

Randomized but unblinded experiment on vitamin D as a coronavirus treatment. Let’s talk about what comes next. (Hint: it involves multilevel models.)

Under the heading, “Here we go again,” Dale Lehman writes: If you want to blog on the continuing theme – try this (it’s from Marginal Revolution, the citation): https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2020/09/a-vitamin-d-bet.html https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960076020302764 Vitamin D Can Likely End the COVID-19 Pandemic What is striking is the analysis by the Rootclaim group – repeated reliance on p values as […]

Postdoc in Bayesian spatiotemporal modeling at Imperial College London!

Seth Flaxman writes: We are hiring a postdoctoral research associate with a background in statistics or computer science to join a vibrant team at the cutting edge of the emerging field of spatiotemporal statistical machine learning (ST-SML). ST-SML draws in equal parts on Bayesian spatiotemporal statistics, scalable kernel methods and Gaussian processes, and recent deep […]

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, […]